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OU 162352 > 

- 7J 




The Relation of Anthropology 
to Modern Life 






F\rst published 1950 
by George G. Harrap <S* Co. Ltd 
182 High Holborn, London, W.C.i 

Copyright. AH rights reserved 

Dewey Decimal Classification: 572 

Composed in licmho type und punted bv VrinLing Services, Ltd, 

Bristol Made m iwreal Britain 





Anthropology is often considered a collection of 
curious facts, telling about the peculiar appearance 
of exotic people, and describing their strange customs 
and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining 
diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the 
conduct of life of civilized communities. 

This opinion is mistaken. More than that, I hope 
to demonstrate that a clear understanding of the 
principles of anthropology illuminates the social 
processes of our own times and may show us, if we 
are ready to Usten to its teachings, what to do and 
what to avoid. 

Franz Boas, Anthropology Modern Life 


This book is intended for the layman, not for the carping 
professional. The latter is humbly begged to remember that if I 
had put in all the documentation he could wish this book would 
have grown into several volumes. Had I entered all the qualifica- 
tions and reservations required in a technical study, the intelligent 
layman would stop before the end of the first chapter. 

There is no claim that every statement is ‘proved.' Anthro- 
pology is a young subject, and there is still much work to be 
done, both gathering and sifting of data. This is an honest and 
a careful assessment of the evidence I have been able to cover. 
In certain instances others have, with equal honesty and perhaps 
with better judgment, drawn different conclusions from the same 
materials. But I have tried ordinarily to follow the present con- 
sensus of the profession. Where I have expressed heterodox or 
personal opinions, the phrasing gives some warning to the reader. 
Similarly, by the use of such words as, ‘some authorities say,' 
‘perhaps,’ ‘probably,’ and ‘maybe,’ I have indicated my tentative 
choice between controversial findings or interpretations. For all 
save a few statements and my own gazings into the crystal ball 
of the future there is some evidence that I consider solid. Specula- 
tions of others or of my own are labelled or are clear as such from 
the context. 





Queer Customs, Potsherds, and Skulls page ii 


Queer Customs 









Race: a Modern Myth 



The Gift of Tongues 



Anthropologists at Work 



Personality in Culture (The Individual and the 



An Anthropologist looks at the United States 



An Anthropologist looks at the World 


Appendix; The Branches of Anthropology and 
the Relation of Anthropology to Other 
Studies of man 










Anthropology provides a scientific basis for dealing with the 
crucial dilemma of the world to-day !^how can peoples of different 
appearance, mutually unintelligible languages, and dissimilar ways 
of hfe get along peaceably together? Of course, no branch cf 
knowledge constitutes a cure-all for the ills of mankind. If any 
statement in this book seems to support such messianic pretensions, 
put tliis absurd claim down as a slip of an enthusiast who really 
knows better. Anthropology is, however, an overlapping study 
with bridges into the physical, biological, and social sciences and 
into the humanities. 

J Because of its breadth, the variety of its methods, and its 
mediating position, anthropology is sure to play a central role in 
the integration of the human sciences. A comprehensive science 
of man, however, must encompass additional skills, interests, and 
knowledge. Certain aspects of psychology, medicine and human 
biology, economics, sociology, and human geography must be 
fused with anthropology in a general science which must likewise 
embrace the tools of historical and statistical methods and draw 
data from history and the other humanities. 

Present-day anthropology, then, cannot pretend to be the whole 
study of man, though perhaps it comes closer than any other 
branch of science. Some of the discoveries that will here be 
spoken of as anthropological have been made possible only by 
collaboration with workers in other fields. Yet even the tradi- 
tional anthropology has a special right to be heard by those who 
are deeply concerned with the problem of achieving one world. 
This is because it has been anthropology that has explored the 




gamut of human variability and can best answer the questions: 
What common ground is there between human beings of all 
tribes and nations? What differences exist? What is their source? 
How deep do they run? 

By the beginning of the twentieth century the scholars who 
interested themselves in the miusual, dramatic, and puzzling 
aspects of man’s history were known as anthropologists. They 
were the men who were searching for man’s most remote ances- 
tors; for Homer’s Troy; for the original home of the American 
Indian; for the relationship between bright sunlight and skin 
colour ; for the origin of the wheel, safety-pins, and pottery. They 
wanted to know ‘how modem man got this way’: why some 
people are ruled by a king, some by old men, others by warriors, 
and none by women; why some peoples pass on property in the 
male line, others in the female, still others equally to heirs of both 
sexes; why some people fall sick and die when they tloink they 
are bewitched, and others laugh at the idea. They sought for the 
imiversals in human biology and in human conduct..' They proved 
that men of different continents and regions were physically much 
more aUke than they were different. They discovered many 
parallels in human customs, some of which could be explained by 
historical contact. In other words, anthropology had become the 
science of human similarities and differences. ^ 

In one sense anthropology is an old study, '^he Greek historian, 
Herodotus, sometimes called the ‘father of anthropology’ as well 
as the ‘father of history,’ described at length the physique and 
customs of the Scythians, Egyptians, and other ‘barbarians.’ 
Chinese scholars of the Han dynasty wrote monographs upon the 
ffiung-Nu, a hght-eyed tribe wandering near China’s north- 
western frontier. The Roman historian, Tacitus, produced his 
famous study of the Germans. Long before Herodotus, even, the 
Babylonians of the time of Hammurabi collected in musuems 
objects made by the Sumerians, their predecessors in Mesopo- 

Although ancients here and there showed that they thought 
types and manners of men worth talking about, it was the voyages 
and explorations from the fifteenth century onward that stimu- 


lated the study of human variability. The observed contrasts with 
the tight httle medieval world made anthropology necessary. 
Useful though the writings of this period are (for example, the 
travelogues of Peter Martyr), they cannot be ranked as -scientific 
documents. Often fanciful, they were written to amuse or for 
narrowly practical purposes. Careful accounts of first-hand 
observation were mixed up with embellished and frequently 
second-hand anecdotes. Neither authors nor observers had any 
special training for recording or interpreting what they saw. 
They looked at other peoples and their habits through crude and 
distorting lenses manufactured of all the prejudices and preconcep- 
tions of Christian Europeans. 

It was not until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that 
scientific anthropology began to develop. The discovery of the 
relationship between Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, and the Germanic 
languages gave a great impetus to the comparative point of view. 
The first systematic anthropologists were gifted amateurs — physi- 
cians, natural historians, lawyers, business-men to whom anthro- 
pology was a hobby. They applied common sense, the habits 
they had learned in their professions, and the fashionable scientific 
doctrines of their day to growing knowledge about ‘primitive’ 

What did they study? They devoted themselves to oddities, to 
matters which appeared to be so trivial or so specialized that the 
fields of study which had been established carher failed to bother 
with them. The forms of human hair, the variations in skull for- 
mation, shades of skin colour, did not seem very important to 
anatomists or to practising physicians. The physical remains ol 
cultures other than the Graeco-Roman were beneath the notice ul 
classical scholars. Languages unrelated to Greek and Sanskrit had 
no interest for the comparative linguists of the nineteenth century, 
^t^rimitive rites interested only a few of the curious until the elegant 
prose and respectable classical scholarship of Sir James Frazer’j 
Golden Bough won a wide au^ence. Not without justificatior 
has anthropology been termed ‘the science of left-overs.’ 

It woidd be going too far to call the nineteenth-century anthro- 
pology'"^ the investigation of oddments by the eccentric.’ The 



English Tylor, the American Morgan, the German Bastian, and 
other leading figures were respected citizens. Nevertheless, we 
shall understand the growth of the subject better if we admit that 
many of the first anthropologists were, from the point of view of 
their contemporaries, eccentrics.'^They were interested in bizarre 
things with which the average person had no serious concern and 
even the ordinary intellectual felt to be inconsequential. 

If one does not confuse the results of intellectual activities with 
the motives leading to these activities, it is useful to ask what sort 
of people would be curious about these questions. Archaeology 
and museum anthropology provide an obvious happy hunting- 
ground for those who are driven by that passion for finding and 
arranging which is common to collectors of everything from 
stamps to suits of armour. Anthropology has also always had 
with it the romantics, those who have taken it up because the lure 
of distant places and exotic people was strong upon them. The 
lure of the strange and far has a pecuUar appeal for those who are 
dissatisfied with themselves or who do not feel at home in their 
own society. Consciously or unconsciously, they seek other ways 
of life where their characteristics are understood and accepted or, 
at any rate, not criticized. Like many historians, the historical 
anthropologist has an urge to escape from the present by crawling 
back into the womb of the cultural past. Because the study had 
something of the romantic aroma about it and because it was not 
an easy way to make a living, it drew an unusual number of 
students who had independent means. 

The beginnings do not sound very promising, either from the 
point of view of the students who were attracted to the subject or 
of what they were drawn to study. Nevertheless these very 
liabilities provided what are the greatest advantages of anthro- 
pology as compared with other approaches to the study of human 
life. / Because nineteenth-century anthropologists studied the 
things they did out of pure interest and not either to earn a living 
or to reform the world, a tradition of relative objectivity grew up. 
The philosophers were shackled by the weighty history of their 
subject and by the vested interests of their profession. Auguste 
Comte, the founder of sociology, was a philosopher, but he tried 


to model sociology after the natural sciences. However, many of 
his followers, who were only sUghtly disguised philosophers of 
history, had a bias in favour of reasoning as opposed to observa- 
tion. Many of the first American sociologists were Christian 
ministers, more eager to improve the world than to study it with 
detachment. The field of political science was also tinged with the 
philosophic point of view and with reformist zeal. The psychol6- 
gists became so absorbed in brass instruments and the laboratory 
that they found little time to study man as one really wants to 
know him — not in the laboratory but in his daily life. Because 
anthropology was the science of left-overs and because left-overs 
were many and varied, it avoided the preoccupation with only 
one aspect of life that stamped, for instance, economics. 

The eagerness and energy of the amateurs gradually won a 
place for their subject as an independent science. A museum of 
ethnology was estabHshed in Hamburg in 1850; 4 :he Peabody 
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard was founded 
in 1866; the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1873 ; the Bureau 
of American Ethnology in 1879. Tylor was made Reader in 
Anthropology at Oxford in 1884. The first American professor 
was appointed in 1886. But in the nineteenth century there were 
not a hundred anthropologists in the whole world. 

The total number of anthropological Ph.D.'s granted in the 
United States prior to 1920 was only fifty-three. Before 1930 only 
four American universities gave the doctorate in anthropology. 
Even to-day there are a bare dozen. Nor has anthropology be- 
come in any sense a principal item of the undergraduate curricu- 
lum. In only two or three secondary schools is instruction regu- 
larly given. 

The astonishing thing, considering the trifling number of 
anthropologists and the minute fraction of the population that has 
been exposed to formal instruction in the subject, is that during 
the last decade or so the word ‘anthropology’ and some of its 
terms have come out of hiding in recondite literature to appear 
with increasing frequency in The New Yorker, Life, The Saturday 
Evening Post, detective stories, and even in films. It is also sympto- 
matic of a trend that many colleges and universities and some 



secondary schools have indicated their intention of introducing 
anthropology in their revised courses of study. Although anthro- 
pologists — like psychiatrists and psychologists — are still regarded 
with a bit of suspicion, present-day society is beginning to feel 
they have something useful as well as diverting to offer. 

In the American South-west one of the signs of summer is the 
arrival of many ‘-ologists’ who disrupt the quiet of the country- 
side. They dig up ruins with all the enthusiasm of small boys hunt- 
ing for ‘Indian curios’ or of delayed adolescents seeking buried 
treasure. They pry into the business of peaceful Indians and make 
a nuisance of themselves generally with a lot of queer-looking 
gadgets. The kind who dig into ruins are technically called 
‘archaeologists,’ those who dig into the minds of Indians ‘ethnolo- 
gists’ or ‘social anthropologists,’ those who measure heads 
‘physical anthropologists,’ but all are varieties of the more inclu- 
sive breed-term ‘anthropologists.’ 

Now what are they really up to? Is it just sheer curiosity about 
“ye beastly devices of yc heathen,’’ or do die diggings, question- 
ings, and measurings really have something to do with the world 
to-day? Do anthropologists merely produce exotic and amusing 
facts which have nothing to do with the problems of here and 

Anthropology is sometliing more than brooding over skulls or 
hunting for ‘the missing link,’ and it has a greater usefuhiess than 
providing means to tell one’s friends from the apes. Seen from 
the outside, anthropological activities look, at best, harmlessly 
amusing, at worst, pretty idiotic. No wonder many a South- 
westerner jests, “The Indians are going to start putting a bounty 
on you fellows.” The lay reaction is well summed up by the 
remark of an army officer. We had met socially and were getting 
along very well until he asked me how I made my living. When 
I told him I was an anthropologist he drew away and said, “Well, 
you don’t have to be crazy to be an anthropologist, but I guess it 

An anthropologist is a person who is crazy enough to study his 
fellow-man. The scientific study of ourselves is relatively new. 


In England in 1936 there were over six hundred persons who 
earned their Hving as students of one specialized branch (bio- 
chemistry) of the science of things, but fewer than ten were em- 
ployed as anthropologists. There are less than a dozen jobs for 
physical anthropologists in the United States to-day. 

Yet nothing is more certain than that men ought to see whether 
4he scientific methods which have given such stupendous results 
in unlocking the secrets of the physical universe might not help 
them understand themselves and their neighbours in this rapidly 
shrinking world.*' Men build machines that are truly wonderful, 
only to find themselves next to helpless when it comes to treating 
the social disorders that often follow the introduction of these 

Ways of making a Hving have changed with such bewildering 
rapidity that we are all a bit confused most of the time. Our ways 
of Hfe have altered too — but not symmetrically. Our economic, 
poHtical, and social institutions have not caught up wdth our tech- 
nology. Our rehgious beliefs and practices and our other ‘idea^ 
systems have much in them that is not appropriate to our present 
way of Hfe and tc^our scientific knowledge of the physical and 
biological world. ^Part of us lives in the ‘modern’ age — another 
part in medieval or even Greek times. 

In the realm of treating social iUs we are stiU Hving in the age of 
magic. We often act as if revolutionary and disturbing ideas could 
be exorcised by a verbal rite — like evil spirits. We hunt for 
witches to blame for our troubles: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. We 
resist changing our inner selves even when altered conditions make 
this clearly necessary. We are aggrieved if other peoples mis- 
understand us or our motives; but if we try to understand them at 
aU, we insist on doing so only in terms of our own assumptions 
about Hfe which we take to be infaUibly correct. We are still 
looking for the philosopher’s stone — some magic formula (per- 
haps a mechanical scheme for international organization) that will 
make the world orderly and peaceful without other than external 
adaptations on our part. 

V We don’t know ourselves very well. ^ We talk about a rather 
vague thing caUed ‘human nature.’ We vehemently assert that 




it is ‘human nature’ to do this and not to do that. Yet anybody 
who has lived in the American South-west, to cite but one 
instance, knows from ordinary experience that 'the laws of this 
mysterious ‘human nature’ do not seem to work out exactly the 
same way for the Spanish-speaking people of New Mexico, for 
the EngUsh-speaking population, and for the various Indian tribes. 
This is where the anthropologists come in. It is their task to 
record the variations and the similarities in human physique, in 
the things people make, in ways of life. Only when we find out 
just how men who have had different upbringing, who come from 
different physical stocks, who speak different languages, who live 
under different physical conditions, meet their problems, can we 
be sure as to what all human beings have in common. Only then 
can we claim scientific knowledge of raw human nature. 

It will be a long job. But perhaps before it is too late we shall 
come close to knowing what ‘human nature’ really is— that is, 
what the reactions are that men inevitably have as human beings, 
regardless of their particular biological or social heritage. To dis- 
cover human nature, the scientific adventurers of anthropology 
have been exploring the byways of time and of space. It is an 
absorbing task — so absorbing that anthropologists have tended to 
write only for each other or for scholars in other professions. Most 
of the literature of anthropology consists of articles in scientific 
journals and of forbidding monographs. The writing bristles with 
strange names and imfamiUar terms and is too detailed for the 
general reader. Some anthropologists may have had an obsession 
for detail as such. At any rate there are many whole monographs 
devoted to such subjects as “An Analysis of Three Hair-nets from 
the Pachacamac Area.” Even to other students of man the great 
mass of anthropological endeavour has appeared, as Robert Lynd 
says, “aloof and preoccupied.” 

Though some research thus appears to leave the ‘anthropos’ 
(man) off to one side, still the main trends of anthropological 
thought have been focused on a few questions of broad human 
interest, such asi What has been tlie course of human evolution, 
both biologically and culturally? Are there any general prin- 
ciples or ‘laws’ governing this evolution? What necessary con- 


nexions, if any, exist between the physical type, the speech, and 
the customs of the peoples of past and present? What generaliza- 
tions can be made about human beings in groups? How plastic is 
man? How much can he be moulded by training or by the 
necessity to adapt to environmental pressures? Why are certain 
types of personaUty more characteristic of some societies than pf 

To most people, however, anthropology still means measuring 
skulls, treating little pieces of broken pottery with fantastic care, 
and reporting the outlandish customs of savage tribes.*^ The 
anthropologist is the grave-robber) the collector of Indian arrow- 
heads, the queer fellow who lives with unwashed cannibals. As 
Sol Tax remarks, the anthropologist has had a function in society 
“something between that of an Einstein dealing with the 
mysterious and that of an entertainer.” His specimens, his pic- 
tures, or liis tales may serve for an hour's diversion, but are pretty 
duU stuff compared to the world of grotesque monsters from 
distant ages which the palaeontologist can recreate, the wonders 
of modern plant and animal life described by the biologist, the 
excitement of unimaginably far-off universes and cosmic processes 
roused by the astronomer. Surely anthropology seems the most 
useless and impractical of all the ‘-ologies.' In a world of rocket 
ships and international organizations, what can the study of the 
obscure and primitive offer to the solution of to-day’s problems? 

<The longest way round is often the shortest way home.’ The 
preoccupation with insignificant non-literate peoples that is an 
outstanding feature of anthropological work is the key to its 
significance to-day. Anthropology grew out of experience with 
primitives, and the tools of the trade are unusual because they 
were forged in this pecuUar workshop. 

. Studying primitives enables us to see ourselves better. Ordi- 
narily we are unaware of the special lens through which we look 
at hfe. It would hardly be fish who discovered the existence of 
water, i Students who had not gone beyond the horizon of their 
own society could net be expected to perceive custom which was 
the stuff of their own thinking."" The scientist of human affairs 
needs to know as much about the eye that sees as the object seen. 



Anthropology holds up a great mirror to man and lets him look at him- 
self in his infinite variety. This, and not the satisfaction of idle 
curiosity nor romantic quest, is the meaning of the anthropolo- 
gist’s work in non-literate societies. 

Picture the field worker in a remote island of the South Seas or 
among a tribe of the Amazon jungle. He is usually alone. But 
he is expected to bring back a report on both the physique and the 
total round of the people’s activities. ’.He is forced to see human 
hfe as a whole.!, He must become a Jack-of-all-trades and acquire 
enough diverse knowledge to describe such varying things as 
head-shape, health practices, motor habits, agriculture, animal 
husbandry, music, language, and the way baskets are made. 

Since there are no published accounts of the tribe, or only un- 
even or inadequate ones, he depends more on his eyes and his ears 
than upon books. Compared with the average sociologist, he is 
almost illiterate. ^The time that the sociologist spends in the 
library, the anthropologist spends in the field. Moreover, his 
seeing and his listening take on a special character. The ways of 
ife he observes are so unfamiliar that it is next to impossible to 
interpret them through his own values. He cannot analyse in 
terms of the tilings he had decided in advance were important, 
because everything is out of pattern. It is easier for him to view 
the scene with detachment and relative objectivity just because it 
is remote and unfamiliar, because he himself is not emotionally 
involved. Finally, since the language has to be learned or inter- 
preters found, the anthropologist is compelled to pay more atten- 
tion to deeds than to words. When he cannot understand what is 
being said, the only thing he can do is devote himself to the 
humble but very useful task of noting who hves with whom, 
who works with whom in what activities, who talks loudly and 
who talks softly, who wears what when. 

A perfectly legitimate question at this point would be: “Well, 
perhaps anthropologists in working in non-literate societies did 
happen to pick up some skill that has given good results when 
applied to studies of our society. But in the name of everything, 
why, if you anthropologists are really interested in modem Ufe, 
do you keep on bothering with these inconsequential Uttle tribes.^” 


The anthropologist’s first answer would be that the ways of 
life of these tribes are part of the human record and that it is his 
job to see that these things get recorded. Indeed, arithropologists 
have felt this responsibiHty very keenly. They have felt that they 
had no time to write general books when each year saw the 
extinction of aboriginal cultures that had not yet been described. 
The descriptive character of most anthropological hterature and 
the overpowering mass of detail are to be traced to the anthro- 
pologist’s obsession with getting down the facts before it is too 

The traditional scientific attitude is that knowledge is an end in 
itself There is much to be said for tliis point of view. Probably 
the appheations that have been made possible by pure science have 
been richer and more numerous because scientists did not narrow 
their interests to fields that promised immediate practical utility. 
But in these troublous times many scientists are also concerned 
about the social justification of their work. There is such a thing 
as scientific dilettantism. It is nice that a few rich museums can 
afford to pay a few men to spend their Hves in the intensive study 
of medieval armour, but the life careers of some anthropologists 
do remind one of Aldous Huxley’s character who consecrated 
his existence to writing the history of the three-tined fork. 
Society cannot afford, in a period like the present, to support 
many speciaUsts in liighly esoteric studies unless they show 
promise of practical usefulness. Fortunately, the detailed study 
of primitive peoples falls into the useful category. 

I may decide that what is really needed is knowledge of urban 
communities like Cambridge, Massachusetts. But, in the present 
situation of social science, a host of practical difficulties confront 
me. In the first place, to do a comprehensive job, I should need 
more collaborators than could be paid for under existing arrange- 
ments for the support of research on human behaviour. Then I 
should have to ask: in terms of actual human interactions, where 
does Cambridge leave off and where do Boston, Watertown, and 
Somerville begin? Many people Hving in Cambridge grew up 
in different parts of the United States and in foreign countries. 
I should always be in danger of attributing to conditions in 



Cambridge ways of behaviour which in fact should be explained 
as results of upbringing in far-distant places. Finally, I should be 
dealing with* dozens of different biological stocks and mixtures 
between them. L. J. Henderson used to say, “When I go into 
my laboratory and try an experiment in which there are five or 
six unknowns, I can sometimes solve the problem if I work long 
enough. But I know better than even to try when there are twenty 
or more unknowns.” 

This is not to argue that it is useless to study Cambridge at the 
present time. Far from it. Certain small problems can be defined 
and answers of a high degree of validity obtained. Something 
of scientific and practical benefit could be learned about the work- 
ings of the whole community. The issue is not : Shall the scientific 
student of man work in our own society or among primitives? It 
is rather : Does the anthropologist by working in the simpler scene 
isolate certain crucial factors which can then be investigated more 
effectively in the complex picture? The right questions to ask 
and the right tecliniques for getting the answers to them can best 
be discovered by work on smaller canvases — that is, in more 
homogeneous societies that have been by-passed by civilization. 

The primitive society is the closest to laboratory conditions the 
student of man can ever hope to get. Such groups are usually 
small and can be studied intensively by few people at slight 
expense. They are ordinarily rather isolated, so that the question 
does not arise as to where one social system begins and another 
ends. The members of the group have Uved their Uves within a 
small area and have been exposed continually to the pressure of 
the same natural forces. They have had an almost identical educa- 
tion. All of their experiences have much more in common than 
is the case with members of complex societies. Their ways of life 
are comparatively stable. Commonly there is a high degree of 
biological inbreeding, so that any member of the society chosen 
at random has about the same biological inheritance as any other. 
In short, many factors can be regarded as more or less constant, 
and the anthropologist is free to study a few variables in detail 
with real hope of ferreting out the connexions between them. 

This can be made clearer by an analogy. How much would we 


know to-day of human physiology if we had been able to study 
the physiological processes only among human beings? The fact 
that we would have been blocked at every turn is due partly to 
the humanitarian limitations we place upon using humans as 
guinea-pigs, but it must also be traced to the complexity of the 
human organism. There are so many variables that it would 
have been enormously difficult to isolate the decisive ones had we 
not been able to study physiological processes in simpler settings. 
A reflex could be speedily isolated in the frog, then studied with 
more complications in the simpler mammals. Once tliese com- 
plexities had been mastered it was possible to go successfully to 
monkeys and apes and then to mankind. This is, of course, 
the essential method of science: the method of successive steps, 
the method of going from the known to the unknown, from the 
simple to the ever more and more complex. 

Non-literate societies represent the final results of many dif- 
ferent experiments carried out by nature. Groups that have 
largely gone their way without being absorbed in the great 
civilizations of the West and East show us the variety of solutions 
which men have worked out for perennial human problems and 
the variety of meanings that peoples attach to the same and to 
different cultural forms. Contemplation of this vast tableau gives 
us perspective and detachment. By analysing the results of these 
experiments the anthropologist also gives us practical information 
on what works and what doesn't. 

A non-anthropologist, Grace de Laguna, has luminously 
summed up the advantages of a view of ourselves from the 
anthropological angle: 

^It is indeed precisely with regard to standards of life and thought 
that the intimate studies of primitive peoples have cast more light 
on human nature than all the reflections of sages or the painstaking 
investigations of laboratory scientists. On the one hand, they have 
shown concretely and vividly the universal kinship of mankind, 
abstractly recognized by the Stoics and accepted as an article of Chris- 
tian faith; on the other hand, they have revealed a wealth of human 
diversity and a variety of human standards and of modes of feehng 
and thinking hitherto unimagined.^The horrid practices of the savage 



have shown themselves to the intimate and unprejudiced study of 
the field ethnologist at once more amazing and more understandable 
than romance had painted them. The wider sympathy with men 
and the deeper insight into human nature wliich these studies have 
brought have done much to shake our complacent estimate of 
ourselves and our attainments. We have come to suspect that even 
our own deepest beUefs and our most cherished convictions may be 
as much the expression of an unconscious provincialism as are the 
fantastic superstitions of the savage. 



Why do the Chinese disHke milk and milk products? Why 
would the Japanese die willingly in a Banzai charge that seemed 
senseless to Americans? Why do some nations trace descent 
through the father, others through the mother, still others through 
bodi parents? Not because different peoples have different in- 
stincts, not because they were destined by God or Fate to different' 
habits, not because the weather is different in China and Japan 
and the United States. Sometimes shrewd common sense has an 
answer that is close to that of the anthropologist: “Because they 
were brought up that way/' By ‘culture' anthropology means 
the total way of hfe of a people, the social legacy the individual 
acquires from his group. Or culture can be regarded as that part 
of the environment tliat is the creation of man. 

This technical term has a wider meaning than the ‘culture' of 
history and hterature. A humble cooking-pot is as much a cul- 
tural product as is a Beethoven sonata. In ordinary speech a man 
of culture is a man who can speak languages other than his own, 
who is familiar with history, literature, pliilosophy, or the fine 
arts. In some cliques that definition is stiU narrower. The cultured 
person is one who can talk about James Joyce, Scarlatti, and 
Picasso. To the anthropologist, however, to be human is to be 
cultured. There is culture in general, and then there are the 
specific cultures, such as Russian, American, British, Hottentot, 
Inca. The general abstract notion serves to remind us that we 
cannot explain acts solely in terms of the biological properties ol 
the people concerned, their individual past experience, and the 
immediate situation. The past experience of other men in the 
form of culture enters into almost every event. Each specific 
culture constitutes a kind of blue-print for all of Hfe’s activities. 




One of the interesting things about human beings is that they 
try to understand themselves and their own behaviour. While 
this has been particularly true of Europeans in recent times, there 
is no group which has not developed a scheme or schemes to 
explain man’s actions. To the insistent human query “Why?” 
the most exciting illumination anthropology has to offer is that 
of the concept of culture. Its explanatory importance is com- 
parable to categories such as evolution in biology, gravity in 
physics, disease in medicine. A good deal of human behaviour 
can be understood, and indeed predicted, if we know a people’s 
design for hving. Many acts are neither accidental nor due to 
personal peculiarities nor caused by supernatural forces nor simply 
mysterious. Even those of us who pride ourselves on our indi- 
•viduahsm follow most of the time a pattern not of our own 
making. We brush our teeth on arising. We put on trousers — 
not a loin-cloth or a grass skirt. We eat three meals a day — ^not 
four or five or two. We sleep in a bed — ^not in a hammock or on 
a sheepskin. I do not have to know the individual and his life 
history to be able to predict these and countless other regularities, 
including many in the thinking process, of all Americans who are 
not incarcerated in gaols or mental hospitals. 

To the American woman a system of plural wives seems ‘in- 
stinctively’ abhorrent. She cannot understand how any woman 
can fail to be jealous and uncomfortable if she must share her hus- 
band with other women. She feels it ‘unnatural’ to accept such 
a situation. On the other hand, a Koryak woman of Siberia, for 
example, would find it hard to understand how a woman could 
be so selfish and so undesirous of feminine companionship in the 
home as to wish to restrict her husband to one mate. 

Some years ago I met in New York City a young man who did 
not speak a word of Enghsh and was obviously bewildered by 
American ways. By ‘blood’ he was as American as you or I, for 
his parents had gone from Indiana to China as missionaries. 
Orphaned in infancy, he was reared by a Chinese family in a 
remote village. All who met him found him more Chinese than 
American. The facts of his blue eyes and light hair were less im- 
pressive than a Cliinese style of gait, Chinese arm and hand move- 



merits, Chinese facial expression, and Chinese modes of thought. 
The biological heritage was American, but the cultural training 
had been Chinese. He returned to China. 

Another example of another kind : I once knew a trader’s wife 
in Arizona who took a somewhat devilish interest in producing a 
cultural reaction. Guests who came her way were often served 
delicious sandwiches filled with a meat that seemed to be neither 
chicken nor tuna fish, yet was reminiscent of both. To queries 
she gave no reply until each had eaten his fill. She then explained 
that what they had eaten was not chicken, not tuna fish, but the 
rich, white flesh of freshly killed rattlesnakes. The response was 
instantaneous — vomiting, often violent vomiting. A biological 
process is caught in a cultural web. 

A highly intelligent teacher with long and successful experience 
in the public schools of Chicago was finishing her first year in an 
Indian school. When asked how her Navaho pupils compared in 
intelligence with Chicago youngsters, she replied, “Well, I just 
don’t know. Sometimes the Indians seem just as bright. At 
other times they just act like dumb animals. The other night we 
had a dance in the high school. I saw a boy who is one of the 
best students in my Enghsh class standing off by himself. So I 
took him over to a pretty girl and told them to dance. But they 
just stood there with their heads down. They wouldn’t even say 
anything.” I inquired if she knew whether or not they were mem- 
bers of the same clan. “What difference would that make?” she 

“How would you feel about getting into bed with your 
brother?” The teacher walked off in a huff, but, actually, the 
two cases were quite comparable in principle. To the Indian the 
type of bodily contact involved in our social dancing has a directly 
sexual connotation. The incest taboos between members of the 
same clan are as severe as between true brothers and sisters. The 
shame of the Indians at the suggestion that a clan brother and 
sister should dance and the indignation of the white teacher at the 
idea that she should share a bed with an adult brother represent 
equally jion-rational responses, culturally standardized unreason. 

All this does not mean that there is no such thing as raw human 



nature. The very fact that certain of the same institutions are 
found in all known societies indicates that at bottom all human 
beings are very much alike. The files of the Cross-Cultural Sur- 
vey at Yale University are organized according to categories such 
as ‘marriage ceremonies/ ‘Hfe crisis rites/ ‘incest taboos.’ At least 
seventy-five of these categories are represented in every single one 
of the hundreds of cultures analysed. This is hardly surprising. 
The members of all human groups have about the same biological 
equipment. All men undergo the same poignant Hfe experiences 
such as birth, helplessness, illness, old age, and death. The bio- 
logical potentiahties of the species are the blocks with which 
cultures are built. Some patterns of every culture crystalHze 
round focuses provided by the inevitables of biology: the dif- 
ference between the sexes, the presence of persons of different 
ages, the varying physical strength and skill of individuals. The 
facts of nature also Hmit culture forms. No culture provides 
patterns for jumping over trees or for eating iron ore. 

There is thus no ‘either-or’ between nature and that special 
form of nurture called culture. Culture determinism is as one- 
sided as biological determinism. The two factors are interde- 
pendent. Culture arises out of human nature, and its forms are 
restricted both by man’s biology and by natural laws. It is equally 
true that culture chaimels biological processes — ^vomitiag, weep- 
ing, fainting, sneezing, the daily habits of food intake and waste 
ehmination. When a man eats he is reacting to an internal ‘ drive’ 
— ^namely, hunger contractions consequent upon the lowering of 
blood sugar, but his precise reaction to these mtemal stimuH can- 
not be predicted by physiological knowledge alone. Whether a 
healthy adult feels hungry twice, three times, or four times a day 
and the hours at which this feeling recurs is a question of culture. 
What he eats is of course Hmited by availabiUty, but is also partly 
regulated by culture. It is a biological fact that some types of 
berries are poisonous; it is a cultural fact that, a few generations 
ago, most Americans considered tomatoes to be poisonous and 
refused to eat them. Such selective, discriminative use of the 
environment is characteristically cultural. In a still more general 
sense, too, the process of eating is channelled by culture. Whether 


a man cats to live, lives to eat, or merely eats and livC^ is only in 
part an individual matter, for there are also cultural trends. 
Emotions are physiological events. Certain situations will evoke 
fear in people from any culture. But sensations of pleasure, anger, 
and lust may be stimulated by cultural cues that would leave 
unmoved some one who has been reared in a different social 

Except in the case of new-born babies and of individuals bom 
with clear-cut structural or functional abnormalities we can 
observe innate endowments only as modified by cultural train- 
ing. In a hospital in New Mexico where Zxmi Indian, Navaho 
Indian, and white American babies are bom, it is possible to 
classify the newly arrived infants as unusually active, average, and 
quiet. Some babies from each ‘racial' group will fall into each 
category, though a higher proportion of the white babies will fall 
into the unusually active class. But if a Navairo baby, a Zuiii 
baby, and a white baby — all classified as unusually active at birth 
— are again observed at the age of two years, the Zuni baby will 
no longer seem given to quick and restless activity — as compared 
with the white child — though he may seem so as compared with the 
other Zunis of the same age. The Navaho child is likely to fall 
in between as contrasted with the Zuni and the white, though he 
will probably still seem more active than the average Navaho 

It was remarked by many observers in the Japanese resettle- 
ment centres that Japanese who were bom and brought up in the 
United States, especially those who were reared apart from any 
large colony of Japanese, resemble in behaviour their white neigh- 
bours much more closely than they do their own parents who 
were educated in Japan. 

I have said, “Culture channels biological processes." It is 
more accurate to say that the biological functioning of individuals 
is modified if they have been trained in certain ways and not in 
others. Culture is not a disembodied force. It is created and 
transmitted by people. However, culture, like well-known con- 
cepts of the physical sciences, is a convenient abstraction. One 
never sees gravity. One sees bodies falling in regular ways. One 



never sees an electromagnetic field. Yet certain happenings that 
can be seen may be given a neat abstract formulation by assuming 
that the electromagnetic field exists. Similarly, one never sees 
culture as such. What is seen are regularities in the behaviour or 
artifacts of a group that has adhered to a common tradition. The 
regularities in style and technique of ancient Inca tapestries or 
stone axes from Melanesian islands are due to the existence of 
mental blue-prints for the group. 

/ Culture is a tvay of thinking, feeling, beUcving. It is the 
group’s knowledge stored up (in memories of men; in books and 
objects) for future use. We study the products of this ‘mental’ 
activity: the overt behaviour, the speech and gestures and activi- 
ties of people, and the tangible results of these tilings, such as 
tools, houses, cornfields, and what not. It lias been customary in 
hsts of ‘culture traits’ to include such things as watches or law- 
books. This is a convenient way of thinking about them, but in 
the solution of any important problem we must remember that 
they, in themselves, are nothing but metals, paper, and ink. What 
is important is that some men know how to make them, others 
set a value on them, are unhappy without them, direct their 
activities in relation to them, or disregard them. 

It is only a helpful shorthand when we say, “The cultural pat- 
terns of the Zulu were resistant to Christianization.” In the 
directly observable world, of course, it was individual Zulus who 
resisted. Nevertheless, if we do not forget that we are speaking at 
a high level of abstraction, it is justifiable to speak of culture as a 
cause. One may compare the practice of saying, “ Syphilis caused 
the extinction of the native population of the island.” Was it 
‘syphihs’ or ‘syphiUs germs’ or ‘human beings who were carriers 
of syphihs ’ } 

‘ Culture,’ then, is ‘ a theory.’ But if a theory is not contradicted 
by any relevant fact, and if it helps us to understand a mass of 
otherwise chaotic facts, it is useful. Darwin’s contribution was 
much less the accumulation of new knowledge than the creation 
of a theory which put in order data already known. An accumu- 
lation of facts, however large, is no more a science than a pile of 
bricks is a house. Anthropology’s demonstration that the most 



weird set of customs has a consistency and an order is comparable 
to modem psychiatry’s showing that there is meaning and pur- 
pose in the apparently incoherent talk of the insane. In fact, the 
inability of the older psychologies and philosophies to account for 
the strange behaviour of madmen and heathens was the principal 
factor that forced psychiatry and anthropology to develop theories 
of the unconscious and of culture. 

Since culture is an abstraction, it is important not to confuse 
culture with society. A ‘society’ refers to a group of people who 
interact more with each other than they do with other individuals 
— who co-operate with each other for the attainment of certain 
ends. You can see and indeed count the individuals who make up 
a society. A ‘culture’ refers to the distinctive ways of life of such 
a group of people. Not all social events are culturally patterned. 
New types of circumstances arise for which no cultural solutions 
nave as yet been devised. 

A culture constitutes a storehouse of the pooled learning of the 
group. A rabbit starts life with some innate responses. He can 
learn from his own experience and perhaps from observing other 
rabbits. A human infant is born with fewer instincts and greater 
plasticity. His main task is to learn the answers that persons he 
will never see, persons long dead, have worked out. Once he 
has learned the formulas supplied by the culture of his group, 
most of his behaviour becomes almost as automatic and unthink- 
ing as if it were instinctive. There is a tremendous amount of 
intelligence behind the making of a wireless set, but not much is 
required to learn to turn it on. 

The members of all human societies face some of the same un- 
avoidable dilemmas posed by biology and other facts of the 
human situation. This is why the basic categories of all cultures 
are so similar. Human culture without language is unthinkable. 
No culture fails to provide for aesthetic expression and aesthetic 
dehght. Every culture suppHes standardized orientations towards 
the deeper problems, such as death. Every culture is designed to 
perpetuate the group and its solidarity, to meet the demands of 
individuals for an orderly way of life, and for satisfaction of 
biological needs. 



However, the variations on these basic themes are numberless. 
Some languages are built up out of twenty basic sounds, others 
out of forty. Nose plugs were considered beautiful by the pre- 
dynastic Egyptians, but are not by the modem French. Puberty 
is a biological fact. But one culture ignores it, another prescribes 
informal instructions about sex but no ceremony, a third has 
impressive rites for girls only, a fourth for boys and girls. In this 
culture the first menstruation is welcomed as a happy, natural 
event; in that culture the atmosphere is full of dread and super- 
natural threat. Each culture dissects nature according to its own 
system of categories. The Navaho Indians apply the same word 
to the colour of a robin’s egg and to that of grass. A psychologist 
once assumed that this meant a difference in the sense organs, that 
Navahos didn’t have the physiological equipment to distinguish 
‘green’ from ‘blue.’ However, when he showed them oQects 
of the two colours and asked them if they were exactly the same 
colours, they looked at him with astonishment. His dream of 
discovering a new type of colour-blindness was shattered. 

Every culture must deal with the sexual instinct. Some, how- 
ever, seek to deny all sexual expression before marriage, whereas a 
Polynesian adolescent who was not promiscuous would be dis- 
tinctly abnormal. Some cultures enforce lifelong monogamy; 
others, hke our own, tolerate serial monogamy; in still other 
cultures two or more women may be joined to one man or 
several men to a single woman. Homosexuahty has been a per- 
mitted pattern in the Graeco-Roman world, in parts of Islam, and 
in various primitive tribes. Large portions of the population of 
Tibet, and of Christendom at some places and periods, have 
practised completely ceUbacy. To us marriage is first and fore- 
most an arrangement between two individuals. In many more 
societies marriage is merely one facet of a compheated set of 
reciprocities, economic and otherwise, between two famiUes or 
two clans. 

The essence of the cultural process is selectivity. The selection 
is only exceptionally conscious and rational. Cultures are hke 
Topsy. They just grew. Once, however, a way of handling a 
situation becomes institutionahzed there is ordinarily great 



resistance to change or deviation. When we speak of ‘our sacred 
behefs/ we mean of course that they are beyond criticism and 
that the person who suggests modification or abandonment must 
be punished. No person is emotionally indifferent to his culture. 
Certain cultural premises may become totally out of accord with 
a new factual situation. Leaders may recognize this and reject 
the iid ways in theory. Yet their emotional loyalty continues in 
the face of reason because of the intimate conditionings of early 

A culture is learned by individuals as the result of belonging to 
some particular group, and it constitutes that part of learned 
behaviour which is shared with others. It is our social legacy, as 
contrasted with our organic heredity. It is one of the important 
factors which permits us to hve together in an organized society, 
giving us ready-made solutions to our problems, helping us to 
predict the behaviour of others, and permitting others to know 
what to expect of us. 

Culture regulates our lives at every turn. From the moment we 
are bom until we die there is, whether we are conscious of it or 
not, constant pressure upon us to follow certain types of behaviour 
that other men have created for us. Some paths we follow 
willingly, others we follow because we know no other way, stiU 
others we deviate from or go back to most unwillingly. Mothers 
of small children know how unnaturally most of this comes to 
us — how little regard we have, until we are ‘culturalized,’ for the 
‘proper’ place, time, and manner for certain acts such as eating, 
excreting, sleeping, getting dirty, and making loud noises. But, 
by more or less adhering to a system of related designs for carry- 
ing out all the acts of living, a group of men and women feel 
themselves linked together by a powerful chain of sentiments. 
Ruth Benedict gave an almost complete definition of the concept 
when she said, “Culture is that which binds men together.” 

It is true any culture is a set of techniques for adjusting both to 
the external environment and to other men. However, cultures 
create problems as well as solve them. If the lore of a people 
states that frogs are dangerous creatures, or that it is not safe to go 
about at night because of witches or ghosts, threats are posed 



which do not arise out of the inexorable facts of the external 
world. Cultures produce needs as well as provide a means of 
fulfilling them. There exists for every group culturally defined, 
acquired drives that may be more powerful in ordinary daily life 
than the biologically inborn drives. Many Americans, for 
example, will work harder for ‘success’ than they will for sexual 
satisfaction. ^ 

Most groups elaborate certain aspects of their culture far beyond 
maximum utiHty or survival value. In other words, not all cul- 
ture promotes physical survival. At times, indeed, it does exactly 
the opposite. Aspects of culture which once were adaptive may 
persist long after they have ceased to be useful. An analysis of 
any culture will disclose many features which cannot possibly be 
construed as adaptations to the total environment in which the 
group now finds itself. However, it is altogether likely that these 
apparently useless features represent survivals, with modifications 
through time, of cultural forms which were adaptive in one or 
another previous situation. 

Any cultural practice must be functional or it will disappear 
before long. That is, it must somehow contribute to the survival 
of the society or to the adjustment of the individual. However, 
many cultural fimctions are not manifest but latent. A cowboy 
will walk three miles to catch a horse wliich he then rides one 
mile to the store. From the point of view of manifest function 
this is positively irrational. But the act has the latent function of 
maintaining the cowboy’s prestige in the terms of his own sub- 
culture. One can instance the buttons on the sleeve of a man’s 
coat, our absurd English spelling, the use of capital letters, and a 
host of other apparently non-functional customs. They serve 
mainly the latent function of assisting individuals to maintain 
their security by preserving continuity with the past and by 
making certain sectors of life famihar and predictable. 

Every culture is a precipitate of history. In more than one sense 
history is a sieve. Each culture embraces those aspects of the past 
which, usually in altered form and with altered meanings, live on 
in the present. Discoveries and inventions, both material and 
ideological, are constantly being made available to a group 


through its historical contacts with other peoples or being created 
by its own members. However, only those that fit the total 
immediate situation in meeting the group’s needs for survival or 
in promoting the psychological adjustment of individuals will 
become part of the culture. The process of culture building may 
be regarded as an addition to man’s innate biological capacities, 
an addition providing instruments which enlarge, or may even 
substitute for, biological functions, and to a degree compensating 
for biological limitations — as in ensuring that death does not 
always result in the loss to humanity of what the deceased has 

Culture is like a map. Just as a map isn’t the territory but an 
abstract representation of a particular area, so also a culture is an^ 
abstract description of trends towards uniformity in the words,' 
deeds, and artifacts of a human group. If a map is accurate and 
you can read it you won’t get lost; if you know a culture you wilf 
know your way about in the life of a society. 

Many educated people have the notion that culture appHes 
only to exotic ways of life or to societies where relative simpHcity 
and relative homogeneity prevail. Some sophisticated mis- 
sionaries, for example, will use the anthropological conception in 
discussing the special modes of living of South Sea Islanders, but 
seem amazed at the idea that it could be appHed equally to inhabi- 
tants of New York City. And social workers in Boston will talk 
about the culture of a colourful and well-knit immigrant group 
but boggle at applying it to the behaviour of staff members in 
the social-service agency itself. 

In the primitive society the correspondence between the habits 
of individuals and the customs of the community is ordinarily 
greater. There is probably some truth in what an old Indian once 
said, “In the old days there was no law; everybody did what was 
right.” The primitive tends to find happiness in the fulfilment of 
intricately involuted cultural patterns; the modem more often 
tends to feel that pattern as repressive to his individuality. It is 
also true that in a complex stratified society there are numerous 
exceptions to generalizations made about the culture a^ a whole. 
It is necessary to study regional, class, and occupational sub- 



cultures. Primitive cultures have greater stability than modern 
cultures; they change — but less rapidly. 

However, modern men also are creators and carriers of culture. 
Only in some respects are they influenced differently from primi- 
tives by culture. Moreover, there are such wide variations in 
primitive cultures that any black-and-white contrast between the 
primitive and the civilized is altogether fictitious. The distinction 
which is most generally true lies in the field of conscious 

The publication of Paul Radin’s Primitive Man as a Philosopher 
did much towards destroying the myth that an abstract analysis^ 
of experience was a pecuharity of literate societies. Speculation 
and reflection upon the nature of the universe and of man’s place 
in the total scheme of tilings have been carried out in every known 
culture. Every people has its characteristic set of ‘primitive 
postulates.’ It remains true that critical examination of basic 
premises and fully explicit systematization of philosopliical con- 
cepts are seldom found at the non-literate level. The written 
word is an almost essential condition for free and extended dis- 
cussion of fundamental philosophic issues. Where dependence 
on memory exists there seems to be an inevitable tendency to 
emphasize the correct perpetuation of the precious oral tradition. 
Similarly, while it is all too easy to underestimate the extent to 
which ideas spread without books, it is in general true that tribal 
or folk societies do not possess competing philosophical systems. 
The major exception to this statement is, of course, the case where 
part of the tribe becomes converted to one of the great prosely- 
tizing religions, such as Christianity or Mohammedanism. Before 
contact with rich and powerful civilizations primitive peoples 
seem to have absorbed new ideas piecemeal, slowly integrating 
them with the previously existing ideology. The abstract thought 
of non-Hterate societies is ordinarily less self-critical, less systema- 
tic, nor so intricately elaborated in purely logical dimensions. 
Primitive thinking is more concrete, more impHcit — ^perhaps 
more completely coherent — than the philosophy of most indi- 
viduals in larger societies which have been influenced over long 
periods by disparate intellectual currents. 



No participant in any culture knows all the details of the cul- 
tural map. The statement frequently heard that St Thomas 
Aquinas was the last man to master all the knowledge of his 
society is intrinsically absurd. St Thomas would have been hard 
put to make a pane of cathedral glass or to act as a midwife. In 
every culture there are what Ralph Linton has called “universals, 
'alternatives, and specialties.” Every Christian in the thirteenth 
century knew that it was necessary to attend mass, to go to con- 
fession, to ask the Mother of God to intercede with her Son. 
There were many other universals in the Christian culture of 
. Western Europe. However, there were also alternative cultural 
patterns even in the realm of religion. Each individual has his 
own patron saint, and different towns developed the cults of 
different saints. The thirteenth-century anthropologist could have 
discovered the rudiments of Christian practice by questioning and 
observing whomever he happened to meet in Germany, France, 
Italy, or England. But to find out the details of the ceremonials 
honouring St Hubert or St Bridget he would have had to seek 
out certain individuals or special localities where these alternative 
patterns were practised. Similarly, he could not learn about 
weaving from a professional soldier or about canon law from a 
farmer. Such cultural knowledge belongs in the realm of the 
specialties, voluntarily chosen by the individual or ascribed to 
him by birth. Thus, part of a culture must be learned by every 
one, part may be selected from alternative patterns, part applies 
only to those who perform the roles in the society for which these 
patterns are designed. 

Many aspects of a culture arc explicit. The expheit culture 
consists in those regularities in word and deed that may be 
generalized straight from the evidence of the ear and the eye. 
The recognition of these is like the recognition of style in the art 
of a particular place and epoch. If we have examined twenty 
specimens of the wooden saints’ images made in the Taos valley 
of New Mexico in the late eighteenth century, we can predict that 
any new images from the same locaUty and period will in most 
respects exhibit the same techniques of carving, about the same 
use of colours and choice of woods, a similar quality of artistic 



conception. Similarly, if, in a society of two thousand members, 
we record a hundred marriages at random and find that in thirty 
cases a man has married the sister of his brother’s wife, we can 
anticipate that an additional sample of a hundred marriages will 
show roughly the same number of cases of this pattern. 

The above is an instance of what anthropologists call a beha- 
vioural pattern, the practices as opposed to the rules of the 
culture. There are also, however, regularities in what people say 
they do or should do. They do tend in fact to prefer to marry 
into a family already connected with their own by marriage, but 
this is not necessarily part of the official code of conduct. No 
disapproval whatsoever is attached to those who make another 
sort of marriage. On the other hand, it is expHcitly forbidden to 
marry a member of one’s own clan even though no biological 
relationship is traceable. This is a regulatory pattern — a Thou 
Shalt or a Thou Shalt Not. Such patterns may be violated often, 
but their existence is nevertheless important. A people’s standards 
for conduct and belief define the socially approved aims and the 
acceptable means of attaining them. When the discrepancy be- 
tween the theory and the practice of a culture is exceptionally 
great this indicates that the culture is undergoing rapid change. 
It does not prove that ideals are unimportant, for ideals are but 
one of a number of factors determining action. 

Cultures do not manifest themselves solely in observable cus- 
toms and artifacts. No amount of questioning of any save the 
most articulate in the most self-conscious cultures will bring out 
some of the basic attitudes common to the members of the group. 
Tliis is because these basic assumptions are taken so for granted 
that they normally do not enter into consciousness. This part of 
the cultural map must be inferred by the observer on the basis of 
consistencies in thought and action. Missionaries in various 
societies are often disturbed or puzzled because the natives do not 
regard ‘morals’ and ‘sex code’ as almost synonymous. The 
natives seem to feel that morals are concerned with sex just about 
as much as with eating — ^no less and no more. No society fails 
to have some restrictions on sexual behaviour, but sexual activity 
outside of marriage need not necessarily be furtive or attended 


with guilt. The Christian tradition has tended to assume that 
sex is inherently nasty as well as dangerous. Other cultures 
assume that sex in itself is not only natural but one of the good 
things of life, even though sexual acts with certain persons under 
certain circumstances are forbidden. This is implicit culture, for 
the natives do not announce their premises. The missionaries 
would get further if they said, in effect, “Look, our morahty 
starts from different assumptions. Let’s talk about those assump- 
tions,” rather than ranting about ‘immorality.’ 

A factor implicit in a variety of diverse phenomena may be 
generahzed as an underlying cultural principle. For example, the 
Navaho Indians always leave part of the design in a pot, a basket, 
or a blanket unfinished. When a medicine-man instructs an 
apprentice he always leaves a little bit of the story untold. This 
‘fear of closure’ is a recurrent theme in Navaho culture. Its 
influence may be detected in many contexts that have no explicit 

If the observed cultural behaviour is to be correctly under- 
stood the categories and presuppositions constituting the implicit 
culture must be worked out. The “strain toward consistency” 
which Sumner noted in the folk-customs and habits of all groups 
cannot be accounted for unless one grants a set of systematically 
interrelated implicit themes. For example, in American culture 
the themes of ‘effort and optimism,’ ‘the common man,’ ‘tech- 
nology,’ and ‘virtuous materiahsm’ have a functional inter- 
dependence, the origin of which is historically known. The 
relationship between themes may be that of conflict. One may 
instance the competition between Jefferson’s theory of democracy 
and Hamilton’s “government by the rich, the wellborn, and the 
able.” In other cases most themes may be integrated under a 
single dominant theme. In Negro cultures of West Africa the 
mainspring of social hfe is religion; in East Africa almost all 
cultural behaviour seems to be oriented towards certain premises 
and categories centred on the cattle economy. If there be one 
master principle in the impHcit culture this is often called the 
‘ethos’ or Zeitgeist. 

Every culture has organization as well as content. There is 



nothing mystical about this statement. One may compare ordin- 
ary experience. If I know that Smith, working alone, can shovel 
ten cubic yards of dirt a day, Jones twelve, and Brown fourteen, 
I would be foolish to predict that the three working together 
would move thirty-six. The total might well be considerably 
more; it might be less. A whole is different from the sum of its 
parts. The same principle is familiar in athletic teams. A brilHant 
pitcher added to a nine may mean a pennant or may mean the 
cellar; it depends on how he fits in. 

And so it is with cultures. A mere list of the behavioural and 
regulatory patterns and of the implicit themes and categories 
would be like a map on which all mountains, lakes, and rivers 
were included — but not in their actual relationship to one another. 
Two cultures could have almost identical inventories and still be 
extremely different. The full significance of any single element 
in a culture design will be seen only when that element is viewed 
in the total matrix of its relationship to other elements. Naturally, 
this includes accent or emphasis as well as position. Accent is 
manifested sometimes through frequency, sometimes through 
intensity. The indispensable importance of these questions of 
arrangement and emphasis may be driven home by an analogy. 
Consider a musical sequence made up of three notes. If we are 
told that the three notes in question are A, B, and G, we receive 
information which is fundamental. But it will not enable us to 
predict the type of sensation which the playing of this sequence is 
hkely to evoke. We need many different sorts of relationship 
data. Are the notes to be played in that or some other order? 
What duration will each receive? How will the emphasis, if any, 
be distributed? We also need, of course, to know whether the 
instrument used is to be a piano or an accordion. 

Cultures vary greatly in their degree of integration. Synthesis 
is achieved partly through the overt statement of the dominant 
conceptions, assumptions, and aspirations of the group in its 
religious lore, secular thought, and ethical code; partly through 
habitual but unconscious ways of looking at the stream of events, 
ways of begging certain questions. To the naive participant in 
the culture these modes of categorizing, of dissecting experience 


along these planes and not others, are as much ‘given' as the regu- 
lar sequence of daylight and darkness or the necessity of air, water, 
and food for Hfe. Had Americans not thought in terms of money 
and the market system during the depression they would have 
distributed unsaleable goods rather than destroyed them. 

Every group’s way of life, then, is a structure — not a hap- 
hazard collection of all the different physically possible and func- 
tionally effective patterns of belief and action. A culture is an 
interdependent system based upon linked premises and categories 
whose influence is greater, rather than less, because they are 
seldom put in words. Some degree of internal coherence which 
is felt rather than rationally constructed seems to be demanded by 
most of the participants in any culture. As Whitehead has 
remarked, “Human Hfe is driven forward by its dim apprehension 
of notions too general for its existing language.” 

In sum, the distinctive way of life that is handed down as the 
social heritage of a people does more than supply a set of abilities 
for making a living and a set of blue-prints for human relations. 
Each different way of life makes its own assumptions about the 
ends and purposes of human existence, about what human beings 
have a right to expect from each other and the gods, about what 
constitutes fulfilment or frustration. Some of these assumptions 
are made explicit in the lore of the folk ; others are tacit premises 
which the observer must infer by finding consistent trends in 
word and deed. 

In our highly self-conscious Western civilization, which has 
recently made a business of studying itself, the number of assump- 
tions that are literally impheit, in the sense of never having been 
stated or discussed by anyone, may be negligible. Yet only a 
trifling number of Americans could state even those implicit 
premises of our culture that have been brought to light by anthro- 
pologists. If one could bring to the American scene a Bushman 
who had been socialized in his own culture and then trained in 
anthropology he would perceive all sorts of patterned regularities 
of which our anthropologists are completely unaware. In the case 
of the less sophisticated and less self-conscious societies, the un- 
conscious assumptions characteristically made by individuals 



brought up under approximately the same social controls bulk 
even larger. But in any society, as Edward Sapir said, “Forms 
and significances which seem obvious to an outsider will be denied 
outright by those who carry out the patterns; outlines and impli- 
cations that are perfectly clear to these may be absent to the eye 
of the onlooker.” 

All individuals in a culture tend to share common interpreta- 
tions of the external world and man’s place in it. To some degree 
every individual is affected by this conventional view of life. One 
group unconsciously assumes that every chain of actions has a 
goal and that when this goal is reached tension will be reduced or 
will disappear. To another group, thinking based upon this 
assumption is meaningless — they see life not as a series of purposive 
sequences, but as a complex of experiences which are satisfying in 
and of themselves, rather than as means to ends. 

The concept of impHcit culture is made necessary by certain 
eminently practical considerations. Programmes of the British 
Colonial services or of the U.S. Indian service, which have been 
carefully thought through for their continuity with the overt 
cultural patterns, nevertheless fail to work out. Nor does inten- 
sive investigation reveal any flaws in the set-up at the techno- 
logical level. The programme is sabotaged by resistance which 
must be imputed to the manner in which the members of the 
group have been conditioned by their implicit designs for living 
to think and feel in ways which were unexpected to the ad- 

What good is the concept of culture so far as the contemporary 
world is concerned? What can you do with it? Much of the rest 
of this book will answer these questions, but some preliminary 
indications are in order. 

Its use lies first in the aid the concept gives to man’s endless 
quest to understand himself and his own behaviour. For example, 
this new idea turns into pseudo-problems some of the questions 
asked by one of the most learned and acute thinkers of our age. 
Reinhold Niebuhr. In his recent book, The Nature and Destiny 
of Man, Niebuhr argues that the universally human sense of guilt 


or shame and man’s capacity for self-judgment necessitate the 
assumption of supernatural forces. These facts are susceptible of 
self-consistent and relatively simple explanation in purely natura- 
listic terms through the concept of culture. Social life among 
human beings never occurs without a system of conventional 
understandings which are transmitted more or less intact from 
generation to generation. Every individual is familiar with some 
of these, and they constitute a set of standards against which he 
judges himself. To the extent that he fails to conform he 
experiences discomfort because his cliildhood training put great 
pressure on him to follow the accepted pattern, and his now un- 
conscious tendency is to associate deviation with punishment or 
withdrawal of love and protection. This and other issues which 
have puzzled philosophers and scientists for countless generations 
become understandable through this fresh concept. 

The principal claim which can be made for the culture concept 
as an aid to useful action is that it helps us enormously towards 
predicting human behaviour. One of the factors limiting the 
success of such prediction thus far has been the naive assumption 
of a minutely homogeneous ‘human nature.’ In the framework 
of this assumption all human thinking proceeds from the same 
premises; all human beings are motivated by the same needs and 
goals. In the cultural framework we see that, while the ultimate 
logic of all peoples may be the same (and thus communication 
and understanding are possible), the thought processes depart from 
radically different premises — especially unconscious or unstated 
premises. Those who have the cultural outlook are more Hkely 
to look beneath the surface and bring the culturally determined 
premises to the light of day. This may not bring about immediate 
agreement and harmony, but it will at least facilitate a more 
rational approach to the problem of international understanding 
and to diminishing friction between groups within a nation. 

Knowledge of a culture makes it possible to predict a good 
many of the actions of any person who shares that culture. If the 
American Army was dropping paratroopers into Thailand in 
1944, under what circumstances would they be knifed, under what 
circumstances would they be aided? If one knows how a given 



culture defines a certain situation, one can say that the betting 
odds are excellent that in a future comparable situation people will 
behave along certain lines and not along others. If we Imow a cul- 
ture, wc know what various classes of individuals within it expect 
from each other — and from outsiders of various categories. We 
know what types of activity are held to be inherently gratifying. 

Many people in our society feel that the best way to get people 
to work harder is to increase their profits or their wages. They 
feel that it is just ‘human nature’ to want to increase one’s 
material possessions. This sort of dogma might well go unchal- 
lenged if we had no knowledge of other cultures. In certain 
societies, however, it has been found that the profit motive is not 
an effective incentive. After contact with whites the Trobriand 
Islanders in Melanesia could have become fabulously rich from 
pearl-diving. They would, however, work only long enough to 
satisfy their immediate wants. 

Administrators need to become conscious of the symbolic 
nature of many activities. American women will choose a job as 
hostess in a restaurant rather than one as waitress at a higher 
salary. In some societies the blacksmith is the most honoured of 
individuals while in others only the lowest class of people are 
blacksmiths. White children in schools arc motivated by grades; 
but children from some Indian tribe will work less hard under a 
system that singles the individual out from among his fellows. 

Understanding of culture provides some detachment from the 
conscious and unconscious emotional values of one’s own culture. 
The phrase ‘some detachment’ must be emphasized. An indi- 
vidual who viewed the designs for living of his group with com- 
plete detachment would be disorientated and unhappy. But I can 
prefer (i.e., feel affectively attached to) American manners while 
at die same time perceiving certain graces in English manners 
which arc lacking or more grossly expressed in ours. Thus, while 
unwilling to forget that I am an American with no desire to ape 
English drawing-room behaviour, I can still derive a lively 
pleasure from association with EngHsh people on social occasions. 
Whereas if I have no detachment, if I am utterly provincial, I am 
likely to regard EngHsh manners as utterly ridiculous, uncouth. 


perhaps even immoraL With that attitude I shall certainly not 
get on well with the Enghsh, and I am likely to resent bitterly 
any modification of our manners in the English or any other 
direction. Such attitudes clearly do not make for international 
understanding, friendship, and co-operation. They do, to the 
same extent, make for a too rigid social structure. Anthropo- 
logical documents and anthropological teachings are valuable, 
therefore, in that they tend to emancipate individuals from a too 
strong allegiance to every item in the cultural inventory. The 
person who has been exposed to the anthropological perspective 
is more likely to live and let live both within his own society and 
in his deaUngs with members of other societies; and he will prob- 
ably be more flexible in regard to needful changes in social 
organization to meet changed technology and changed economy. 

Perhaps the most important impHcation of culture for action is 
the profound truth that you can never start with a clean slate so 
far as human beings are concerned. Every person is born into a 
world defined by already existing culture patterns. Just as an 
individual who has lost his memory is no longer normal, so the 
idea of a society’s becoming completely emancipated from its past 
culture is inconceivable. This is one source of the tragic failure of 
the Weimar constitution in Germany. In the abstract it was an 
admirable document. But it failed miserably in actual life partly 
because it provided for no continuity with existent designs for 
acting, feehng, and thinking. 

I Since every culture has organization as well as content, ad- 
ministrators and law-makers should know that one cannot isolate 
a custom to abolish or modify it. The most' obvious example of 
failure caused by neglect of this principle was the Eighteenth 
Amendment. The legal sale of Hquor was forbidden, but the 
repercussions in law enforcement, in family life, in politics, in the 
economy were staggering. 

The concept of culture, hke any other piece of knowledge, can 
be abused and misinterpreted. Some fear that the principle of 
cultural relativity will weaken morahty. ‘Tf the Bugabuga do it 
why can’t we? It’s all relative anyway.” But this is exactly what 
cultural relativity does not mean. 



The principle of cultural relativity does not mean that because 
the members of some savage tribe are allowed to behave in a 
certain way that this fact gives intellectual warrant for such 
behaviour in all groups. Cultural relativity means, on the con- 
trary, that the appropriateness of any positive or negative custom 
must be evaluated with regard to how this habit fits with other 
group habits. Having several wives makes economic sense among 
herders, not among hunters. While breeding a healthy scepticism 
as to the eternity of any value prized by a particular people, anthro- 
pology does not as a matter of theory deny the existence of moral 
absolutes. Rather, the use of the comparative method provides a 
scientific means of discovering such absolutes. If all surviving 
societies have found it necessary to impose some of the same restric- 
tions upon the behaviour of their members, this makes a strong 
argument that these aspects of the moral code are indispensable. 

Similarly, the fact that a Kwakiutl chief talks as if he had 
delusions of grandeur and of persecution does not mean that 
paranoia is not a real ailment in our cultural context. Anthro- 
pology has given a new perspective to the relativity of the normal 
that should bring greater tolerance and understanding of socially 
harmless deviations. But it has by no means destroyed standards 
or the useful tyranny of the normal. All cultures recognize some 
of the same forms of behaviour as pathological. Where they 
differ in their distinctions there is a relationship to the total frame- 
work of cultural life. 

There is a legitimate objection to making culture explain too 
much. Lurking, however, in such criticisms of the cultural point 
of view is often the ridiculous assumption that one must be loyal 
to a single master explanatory principle. On the contrary, there 
is no incompatibility between biological, environmental, cultural, 
historical, and economic approaches. All are necessary. The 
anthropologist feels that so much of history as is still a hving force 
is embodied in the culture. He regards the economy as a specialized 
part of the culture. But he sees the value in having economists 
and historians, as specialists, abstract out their special aspects — so 
long as the complete context is not entirely lost to view. Take 
the problems of the American South, for example. The anthro- 



pologist would entirely agree that biological (social visibility of 
black skin, etc.), environmental (water-power and other natural 
resources), historical (South settled by certain types of people, 
somewhat different governmental practices from the start, etc.), 
and narrowly cultural (original discrimination against Negroes as 
‘heathen savages,’ etc.) issues are all inextricably involved. How- 
ever, the cultural factor is involved in the actual working out of 
each influence — though culture is definitely not the whole of it. 
And to say that certain acts are culturally defined does not always 
and necessarily mean that they could be ehminated by changing 
the culture. 

The needs and drives of biological man, and the physical 
environment to which he must adjust liimsclf, provide the stuff 
of human life, but a given culture determines the way this stuff 
is handled — the tailoring. In the eighteenth century a NeapoHtan 
philosopher, Vico, uttered a profundity which was new, violent 
— and unnoticed. This was simply the discovery that “the social 
world is surely the work of man.” Two generations of anthro- 
pologists have compelled thinkers to face this fact. Nor are 
anthropologists willing to allow the Marxists or other cultural 
determinists to make of culture another absolute as autocratic as 
the God or Fate portrayed by some philosophies. Anthropo- 
logical knowledge does not permit so easy an evasion of man’s 
responsibility for his own destiny. To be sure, culture is a com- 
pulsive force to most of us most of the time. To some extent, as 
LesHe White says, “Culture has a life and laws of its own.” 
Some cultural changes are also compelled by economic or physical 
circumstances. But most of an economy is itself a cultural product. 
And it is men who change their cultures, even if— during most of 
past history — they have been acting as instruments of cultural 
processes of which they were largely unaware. The record shows 
that, while situation Umits the range of possibihty, there is always 
more than one workable alternative. The essence of the cultural 
process is selectivity; men may often make a choice. Lawrence 
Frank probably overstates the case: 

In the years to come it is probable that this discovery of the human 

origin and development of culture will be recognized as the greatest 



of all discoveries, since heretofore man has been helpless before these 
cultural and social formulations which generation after generation 
have perpetuated the same frustration and defeat of human values 
and aspirations. So long as he believed this was necessary and 
inevitable, he could not but accept tliis lot with resignation. Now 
man is beginning to realize that his culture and social organization 
are not unchanging cosmic processes, but arc human creations which 
may be altered. For those who cherish the democratic faith this dis- 
covery means that they can, and must, undertake a continuing assay 
of our culture and our society in terms of its consequences for human 
life and human values. This is the historic origin and purpose of 
human culture, to create a human way of life. To our age falls the 
responsibility of utilizing the amazing new resources of science to 
meet these cultural tasks, to continue the great human tradition of 
man taking charge of his own destiny. 

Nevertheless, to the extent that human beings discover the 
nature of the cultural process, they can anticipate, prepare, and — 
to at least a limited degree — control. 

Americans are now at a period in history when they are faced 
with the facts of cultural differences more clearly than they can 
take with comfort. Recognition and tolerance of the deeper 
cultural assumptions of China, Russia, and Britain will require a 
difficult type of education. But the great lesson of culture is that 
the goals towards which men strive and fight and grope are not 
‘given’ in final form by biology nor yet entirely by the situation. 
If we understand our own culture and that of others the political 
climate can be changed in a surprisingly short time in this narrow 
contemporary world, providing men are wise enough and articu- 
late enough and energetic enough. The concept of culture carries 
a legitimate note of hope to troubled men. If the German and 
Japanese peoples behaved as they did because of their biological 
heredity the outlook for restoring them as peaceful and co- 
operative nations would be hopeless. But if their propensities for 
cruelty and aggrandizement were primarily the result of factors 
of the situation and their cultures, then something can be done 
about it, though false hopes must not be encouraged as to the 
speed with which plans to change a culture can succeed. 



What service do the scientific diggers and collectors render the 
community beyond filling the cases of museums and supplying 
material for the photographic sections of the Sunday papers? 
These describers and recorders are anthropological historians. 
That is, they are concerned mainly with answering the questions 
about man: What? who? where? when? in what patterns? 

The study of biological evolution as history is carried out from 
the same point of view and with basically the same tools as is the 
attempt to discover the succession of flint industries in the Old 
Stone Age. Could the fossil gibbons found in Egypt be ancestral 
to human beings or only to modern gibbons? Is the Neanderthal 
species of the Europe and Palestine of fifty thousand years ago 
completely extinct, or is modem man the result of a cross between 
the Neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon types? Was pottery inde- 
pendently invented in the New World or were pots or the idea 
of pottery brought from the Eastern Hemisphere? Did Poly- 
nesians cross the Pacific and bring the concept of social classes to 
Peru? Is the language of the Basques of Spain related to languages 
spoken in parts of Northern Italy in pre-Roman times? 

These studies in archaeology, ethnology, historical linguistics, 
and human evolution give us a long-term perspective upon our- 
selves and help to free us from transitory values. Indeed, to con- 
sider human history on the basis of only those peoples who left 
written records is like trying to understand a whole book from 
reading the last chapter. All of historical anthropology widens 
the scope of general history. As curtain after curtain has been 
raised, deeper areas of the human stage have been revealed. The 
enormous interdependence of all men upon each other stands out 
D 49 



clearly. The Ten Commandments, for example, are seen to be 
derived from the earlier code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian king. 
Some of the Book of Proverbs is taken from the wisdom of 
Egyptians who lived more than two thousand years before Christ. 

Ortega y Gasset has written, “Man has no nature; he has his- 
tory.’’ This, as we saw in the last chapter, is an overstatement. 
Cultures are the products of liistory, yes; but they are the results 
of history as influenced by man’s biological nature and conditioned 
by environment. Nevertheless our view of the world as nature 
must be supplemented by a view of the world as history. The 
historical anthropologists have performed a great service in 
emphasizing the concrete and the historically unique. The facts 
of chance, of historical accident, must be understood as well as 
the universal of socio-cultural process. As Tylor wrote long ago, 
“Much learned nonsense is due to attempting to explain by the 
light of reason what must be understood by the light of history.” 
As the archaeologists inject clironology into a confusing mass of 
descriptive facts, one gets a sense not only of the cumulative 
nature of culture but also of pattern in history. 

There is admittedly Httle about archaeology that is immediately 
practical. Archaeological research does enrich present-day life 
through rediscovery of art motifs and other inventions of past 
times. It provides a healthy intellectual interest manifested in the 
archaeological National Monuments and Parks of the United 
States and in local archaeological societies. Lancelot Hogben has 
termed archaeology “a powerful intellectual vitamin for the 
democracies and dictatorships alike.” Mussolini poured money 
into the excavation of Roman ruins to stimulate the pride of the 
Itahans in their past. New states created by the Treaty of Ver- 
sailles, such as Czechoslovakia, developed archaeology as a means 
of nation building and self-expression. However, diggings have 
been related to contemporary issues in ways more socially useful 
than that of supplying spurious foundations for unhealthy 
nationahsm. Archaeological work helped to explode the poHti- 
cally dangerous Nordic myth by proving that this physical type 
had not, as the Nazis claimed, been resident from time imme- 
morial in Germany. 



It is easy to poke fun at archaeologists as ‘relic hunters’ whose 
intellectual activity is on about the same level as stamp collecting. 
Wallace Stegner voices a common attitude: 

The things archaeologists find in their erudite picking-over of the 
garbage dumps of vanished civilizations are pretty disappointing, 
really. They give us only the most tantalizing glimpses; they make 
us judge of a culture by the contents of a small boy’s overalls pockets. 
Time sucks the meaning from many things, and the future finds the 

Yet to the archaeologist who is truly an anthropologist each kind 
of stone tool, for example, represents a human problem which 
some individual, conditioned by the culture of his group, has 
solved. The archaeologist does not treat each potsherd so seriously 
because he is interested in pottery as such, but because he has so 
little material he must make the most of it. Pottery types offer 
the archaeologist a way of recognizing that the products of human 
behaviour fall into patterns. 

There is, of course, always the danger of being taken in by the 
unique products of human eccentricity. I remember once walk- 
ing through a village of thatch-covered cottages in Oxfordshire. 
Almost everything conformed beautifully to pattern. Suddenly, 
however, I saw a miniature replica of a Maya Indian pyramid in 
one garden, the product of a farmer’s odd reading and his Sunday 
leisure. If all written records were destroyed and the standard 
wooden objects of the village dissolved in dust, what outlandish 
theories might not the archaeologist of a thousand years hence 
build on this solitary pyramid in Southern England! A 1947 
newspaper announced that a retired school-teacher in Oklahoma 
had built a seventy-foot concrete totem pole — “just to confuse 
erudite investigators.” Actually, the days of sweeping explana- 
tions supported by only a single specimen are over. Intensive and, 
extensive excavations in each area quickly sort out the imiqu^; 
from the regular. Those who still say that no prediction is pojS- 
sible in the human scene should watch a South-western archr^- 
ologist scan the surface of an undug site. He looks at a handtful 
of potsherds, and, if they come from a now well-known arclhsc- 
ological culture, he can predict not only what other typf^s of 



pottery will be found on excavation, but also the style of masonry, 
the techniques of weaving, the arrangement of rooms, and the 
kinds of stone- and bone-work. He knows the pattern. 

The essential method of modem archaeology is that of the jig- 
saw puzzle. Take the matter of the domestication and use of the 
horse. At present we have scattered pieces of the total pattern. 
The earhest known site in which horse bones occur in large 
numbers, but do not appear to be those of game-animals, is in 
Russian Turkestan and dates from the fourth millennium before 
Christ. But were the horses ridden or used to draw carts or kept 
for their milk or to be eaten In the Battle-axe culture of Northern 
Europe at about 2000 b.c. horses were buried like people. Again 
there is no information as to the use to which they were put. 
Certain artistic representations from Persia at about the same 
period may depict men on horses — or on asses? It is about 
1000 B.C. before there is definite proof that horses were used for 
riding. There are some indications that horses were used to draw 
carts or chariots about 1800 b.c. We know that the Scythians 
were fighting on horseback by about 800 b.c. We know that 
the Chinese did not develop cavalry until they were forced in 
self-protection to do so in the third century b.c. Present data 
indicate two tentative conclusions. First, the horse was domesti- 
cated later than such animals as the sheep and pig. Second, 
domestication of the horse probably took place off the main Near 
Eastern stage where the inventions basic to modern civilization 
were produced — perhaps in a wing to the north. This particular 
jig-saw puzzle will almost certainly be filled in eventually, even 
though knowledge of exactly how the domestication of the horse 
occurred and who first used the horse remains unknown. 

Archaeology has become immensely technical. The chemist 
^and the metallurgist assist in analysing certain specimens. The 
\rchaeologist himself must be a skilled mapper and photographer. 
Dating may involve the study of the tree-rings in building- 
timbers, microscopic identification of the minerals in potsherds, 
ar *alysis of the pollens in the layers deposited, identification of the 
bo les of fossil animals found, tracing the strata to link up with a 
geologically estabhshed sequence of river terraces. A promising 



technique, now in an experimental phase, is based upon new 
knowledge of radiation and atomic physics. Carbon 14, present 
in all organic matter, disappears at a fairly constant rate. This may 
make it possible to take a fragment of bone from men who died 
ten or twenty thousand years ago and say with some precision 
the date of their death. 

As W. H. Holmes said, “Archaeology is the great retriever of 
history ... it reads and interprets that which was never meant to 
be read or interpreted . . . revealer of vast resources of history of 
which no man had previously taken heed.*’ So the modern 
archaeologist does not think well of his precursors in the Romantic 
Period who tore thousands of pages of history to bits for the price 
of a few objects prized only for their aesthetic or antiquarian 
interest. Nor is the archaeologist to-day obsessed with the quest 
for ultimate origins. He knows we shall never discover who first 
invented the making of fire or what the first human language was 

The interest of modern archaeology is focused upon helping to 
estabhsh the principles of culture growth and change. The signifi- 
cance of the archaeological proof that the Hopi Indians mined and 
used coal before Columbus is not that of a startling or curious 
fact. Rather, its meaning is as one important bit of evidence bear- 
ing on the principles of psychic unity of mankind and independent 
invention. Although certain psychological aspects of these 
principles can be discovered only by work with hving peoples, 
archaeology can, by the study of material remains of past peoples, 
put a chronological backbone into our theories. Grahame Clarke 
well says, “To see big things whole they must be seen from a 
distance, and that is precisely what archaeology enables one to do.” 
When we see the whole panorama of inventions and borrowings 
on the vast scale of space and time, which archaeology alone can 
provide, we realize the tremendous interdependence of cultures 
and the essential cultural brotherhood of man. 

So the diggers and collectors look forward as well as back. 
When the archaeologist scrupulously compares his specimens with 
ones found at other times and places and plots on maps and graphs 
by space- and time-sequence the occurrence of similar traits or 



combinations of traits, he is looking for regularities. Have 
different peoples who hved in the same region at various time- 
periods shown certain common features in their ways of life.? In 
other words, how potent is the physical environment in shaping 
the development of human institutions? Do modes of economic 
production in the long run determine the ideas of a people? 
How can we learn from the lessons of history, avoiding the 
mistakes of the past? 

By extending in time as well as in space the comparisons that 
can be made as to how different peoples have solved or failed to 
solve their problems, the chances for testing scientifically certain 
theories about human nature and the course of human progress 
are much improved. For example, the question as to whether 
American Indian cultures developed independently without bor- 
rowing major inventions or ideas from the Old World is no mere 
academic argument. Pottery, weaving, domestic plants and ani- 
mals, metal-working, writing, and the conception of mathema- 
tical zero were current in certain areas of the New World by the 
time of Columbus. The social classes that had developed in 
Middle America and Peru had some points of resemblance to 
feudal social structure in Europe. The view of conservative 
American anthropologists is that the emigrants to America from 
Asia brought with them only a rude culture and that there were 
no significant contacts between the Old and New Worlds after 
the peoples of Eastern Asia had acquired such techniques as 
weaving and metallurgy. If the archaeologists, ethnologists, and 
linguists can prove that these inventions were made all over again 
in the Americas, then we must assume that if you let human beings 
alone long enough their inherited biological equipment is such that 
they will go through about the same successive steps in building 
their ways of life. On this assumption social planning and the 
orderly preservation and transmission of knowledge do not seem 
too important. Progress will occur anyway, and not much can be 
done about the course of human development. If, on the other 
hand, it is demonstrated that at least the ideas of pottery, weaving, 
metallurgy, and the like were borrowed from the Old World, 
one’s crucial assumptions about human nature become impor- 



tantly different. Man is seen as extraordinarily imitative and only 
rarely profoundly creative. If that should prove to be the case, 
then one must ask what peculiar combination of conditions pro- 
duced once and only once the economic techniques basic to city 
hfe and inventions, such as writing, that made modem civihzation 

Archaeological materials reveal a great deal about the economy, 
subsistence, technology, environmental adjustment, and even the 
social organization of a people. Gordon Cliilde says : 

The stone axe, the tool distinctive qf part at least of the Stone Age, 
is the home-made product that could be fashioned and used by any- 
body in a self-contained group of hunters or peasants. It implies 
neither specialization of labour nor trade beyond the group. The 
bronze axe which replaces it is not only a superior implement, it 
also presupposes a more complex economic and social structure. 
The casting of bronze is too difficult a process to be carried out by 
anyone in the intervals of growing or catching his food or minding 
her babies. It is a specialist’s job, and these specialists must rely for 
such primary necessities as food upon a surplus produced by other 
specialists. Again, the copper and tin of which the bronze axe is 
composed are comparatively rare, and very seldom occur together. 
One or both constituents will almost certainly have to be imported. 
Such importation is possible only if some sort of communications 
and trade have been established and if there is a surplus of some 
local product to barter for the metals. 

And so a vast sifting of the archaeological evidence is one sound 
way of testing some of the theories of the Marxists on correlations 
between types of technology, economic structure, and social life. 

In principle, archaeology is identical with the work of the 
anthropological describers who deal with Uving peoples. Archaeo- 
logy is the etlinography and culture history of past peoples. 
Indeed some one has said that “the ethnographer is an archaeo- 
logist who catches his archaeology aHve.” The record of cultures 
set down by the etlinographer is analysed by the ethnologist in 
historical terms, sometimes with the use of statistical tools as well 
as maps. The ethnologist also studies the relationship between 
culture and physical environment, and deals with such topics as 



primitive art, primitive music, and primitive religion. The folk- 
lorist follows the tangled skein of motives in and out of both 
literate and non-literate cultures. 

These activities have their impact upon modern life. Modern 
music and the graphic arts received a genuine stimulus from the 
Gomparative outlook. Once the primitive arts were well described 
and taken seriously their counterparts in our civilization had en- 
larged possibilities for development. The knowledge ethno- 
graphers had collected on the geography, resources, and native 
customs of out-of-the-way places was put to practical use during 
the War when these areas became of military importance. In 
January 1942 an anthropologist who happened to be the only 
person in the United States who had ever spent any time on a 
certain obscure little island in the Pacific was hardly allowed to 
sleep for weeks, so badly did the Navy and the Marine Corps 
need to question him about the beaches, watercourses, and popula- 
tion of this island. Anthropologists wrote ‘survival manuals,’ 
dealing with problems of food, clothing, dangerous insects and 
animals, water-supply, and proper ways of securing native co- 
operation in the areas they knew best. During the Versailles 
Peace Conference ethnographers were present as expert advisers 
on cultural boundaries in Europe. Perhaps it would have been 
well if the cultural lines had been taken as seriously as the political 

Once again, however, the note-books of historical anthro- 
pologists are only means to broader objectives. Description is 
never an end in itself. The first aim is that of filling in the blank 
pages of world history for the living peoples who do not have 
written languages. A number of well-documented conclusions 
have been reached on specific points. For example, Polynesia was 
settled relatively late. Social units, such as clans, appear in human 
history after a long period when the family and the band were 
the bases of social organization. Certain peoples of Siberia repre- 
sent a backwash from North America. Other migrations have 
been approximately traced. 

Sometimes historical linguistics is of crucial importance in these 
reconstructions. For example, we find groups of tribes in Alaska 



and Canada, the coast of Oregon and California, and in the South- 
west who speak languages that are closely related. Presumably 
all the tribes at one time lived in the same area. But was the 
migration from north to south or from south to north A com- 
parison of certain words used by one of the southern tribes with 
similar words in the West Coast and northern tongues indicates, 
a northern origin. The Navaho word for com breaks down into 
‘food of the Pueblo Indians.’ Apparently the Navaho did not 
themselves raise maize when they came into the South-west. 
Their word for a gourd ladle had an earlier meaning of ‘horn of 
an animal.’ Gourds are native to the South-west; horns are im- 
portant to hunting-peoples of the North Woods. A Navaho word 
for sowing seed has the basic meaning ‘the snow Hes in particles 
on the ground.’ An obscure Navaho ceremonial expression 
actually signifies ‘sleep paddles away from me’ — wliich all too 
clearly points to Canadian rivers and lakes rather than to the 
deserts of New Mexico and Arizona. So does the ritual descrip- 
tion of the owl — ‘he who brings darkness back in his canoe.’ 

Such putting together of descriptive bits into coherent historical 
reconstruction is also, however, only a means to answering more 
general questions. For example, archaeologists and ethnologists 
join hands in depicting the natural history of warfare. Freud and 
Einstein, in their famous exchange of letters, argued the question 
of the inevitabihty of war. A more scientific approach would be 
to discover whether in fact war has always and everywhere been 
part of the human scene. If it has, this does not prove that Freud 
was right for all time since some persistent institutions, such as 
chattel slavery, have been successfully eliminated. Also, the 
existence of present types of destructive instruments is a new 
element in the picture. However, if the data favour Freud’s 
assumption of an aggressive instinct planning for a speedy aboh- 
tion of warfare would appear a waste of time. Constructive 
energies would better go into the redirection of aggressive 
imposes and the gradual achieving of a certain measure of control 
over outbreaks of armed hostility between groups. 

The necessary evidence is not yet all in. Facts now known do 
indicate that Freud’s view was needlessly pessimistic, biased 



presumably by exclusive contemplation of recent centuries of 
European liistory. It is not certain that warfare existed during the 
Old Stone Age. The indications are that it was unknown during 
the earher part of the New Stone Age in Europe and the Orient. 
Settlements lack structures that would have defended them against 
attack. Weapons seem to be limited to those used in hunting 
animals. Some prominent ethnologists read the record of more 
recent times to mean that war is not endemic but a perversion of 
human nature. Organized, offensive warfare was unknown in 
aboriginal Austraha. Certain areas of the New World seem to 
have been completely free from war in the pre-European period. 
All the above statements are to greater or lesser degree disputed 
among the specialists, though most of them are capable of settle- 
ment in terms of obtainable data. What is absolutely certain at 
present is that different types of social order carry with them 
varying degrees of propensity for war. The continuum ranges 
from groups Hke the Pueblo Indians, who for many centuries 
have almost never engaged in offensive warfare, to groups like 
some Plains Indians, who made fighting their highest virtue. Even 
in societies that exalt aggression the variation in approved outlets 
is enormous. Just as a culture that centres on wealth may elect to 
prove wealth by hoarding or by distribution, so an aggressive 
culture may emphasize war against neighbours, hostihty within 
the group, or competitive activities like sports or the mastery of 
the natural environment. 

How do cultures change and grow? What proportion of their 
cultures have peoples created and what proportion have they bor- 
rowed from others? Does history in any sense repeat itself, or is 
history, as Henry Adams once complained to a friend, like a 
Chinese play — without end and without lesson? Are there true 
cycles in history? Is ‘progress’ a reality? 

In the opinion of one anthropologist, R. B. Dixon, who care- 
fully studied these matters, a triad of factors is always in the 
background of each new trait: opportunity, need, and genius. 
Basic additions to the total inventory of human culture arise either 
from accidental discovery or from conscious invention. The 
phenomenon of large numbers of men systematically and purpose- 



fully seeking inventions is peculiar to our times. Invention of 
improvements, at least, is accelerating at a tremendous rate. The 
totality of human culture is cumulative. Increasingly, we stand 
on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. The achieve- 
ments of Einstein rest upon a substructure built up by at least five 
thousand years of collective effort. The dieory of relativity traces 
its genealogy from an unknown hunter who discovered abstract 
numbers by notching his stick, from Mesopotamian priests and 
traders who invented multiplication and division, from Greek 
philosophers and Moslem mathematicians. 

There are few proved instances of totally independent inven- 
tion. A familiar illustration is the development of one form of 
mathematical calculus by Newton and Leibniz in the seventeenth 
century. Often cited examples from recent times, such as the 
wireless and the aeroplane, appear on examination to be cases of 
a somewhat different order because they involve primarily the 
assembling of a number of basic inventions that, under modern 
conditions of communication, were equally known to both parties. 

The appearance of the idea of mathematical zero in India and 
in Central America would be a dramatic example but must be 
regarded as still unsettled. The Hopi use of coal seems more 
certain. There are a few instances where convergence appears to 
have developed out of two totally distinct cultural backgrounds. 
The fire piston appears to have been known in South-east Asia in 
relatively ancient times. In Europe it was produced in the nine- 
teenth century on the basis of experiments in physics. Apparent 
resemblances need to be scrutinized carefully. It is easy to say 
that there are pyramids in both Egypt and the New World. Yet 
Egyptian pyramids are peaked and were used exclusively as 
tombs. Maya pyramids were flat-topped as foundations for 
temples or altars. 

What happens to a discovery or invention, once made, depends 
on the total cultural milieu and all sorts of situational demands. 
Doubtless many discoveries have perished with their discoverers 
because they did not fit the necessities of the times or because the 
discoverers were regarded as mad. The momentous findings of 
Gregor Mendel on the principles of heredity were neglected for 



many years, buried in an obscure journal. Had Mendel not lived 
in a literate culture the fact of his discovery would be unknown 
to-day. A finding may now be preserved by publication until an 
important use for it turns up. D.D.T. was discovered in 1874 but 
not utilized as an insecticide until 1939. Similarly, an invention 
may survive but not be exploited to its limits. The Greeks of the 
Hellenistic period knew the principle of the steam-engine, but it 
was utilized only in a toy. The social and economic conditions 
did not favour its development. Moreover, Greek culture in 
general was interested in people — ^not in machines. 

Many culture traits wlrich we call by a single name actually 
show only a rather vague resemblance in general function, not in 
specific structure. In certain instances — for example, clan, the 
mother-in-law taboo, feudalism, totemism — multiple causes and 
multiple historical origins are probable. It is all too tempting to 
dramatize culture growth, singling out one date and one inventor. 
A great intellectual achievement, like writing, is probably born 
out of the subconscious mind of many individuals and perhaps first 
takes place in random activity or play. In a fortimate context of 
situation a particular individuafs spontaneous innovation is 
accepted by others. Only after many acceptances and many 
successive ‘inventions’ does writing progress slowly towards the 
full realization of its inherent potentialities and attain such regu- 
larity that the observer would say, “Yes, here, we have a written 

The spread of an invention beyond the group where it origi- 
nated is called by anthropologists diffusion. The diffusion of 
tobacco, the alphabet, and otlier cultural elements has been traced 
in considerable detail. The adoption or rejection of a trait 
depends upon a variety of factors, once contact has been estab- 
Ushed through trade, missionaries, or the printed word. The 
most obvious factor is, of course, need. The Chinese had rice and 
so were not particularly attracted by the potato. The EngHsh eat 
the leaves of the beet and throw the root to swine and oxen. 
Europeans adopted mazie as a food for animals; Africans quickly 
became fond of com on the cob and integrated com-meal into 
their ritual. Then there is the factor of general suitabihty to pre- 



existing culture patterns. A religion centred in a male deity is 
not easily established among a people that has traditionally wor- 
shipped female figures. Some cultures are much more resistant 
than others to all types of borrowing. However, a culture that 
has had a tradition of being self-contained will become much 
more receptive if the group is disorganized by famine or by mili- 
tary conquest. Then all the forces making for resistance to change 
are weakened. Similarly, it may be noted that within a well- 
integrated society those individuals who are disgruntled or mal- 
adjusted are ordinarily more hkely to accept foreign patterns. If, 
on the other hand, a chief or king happens to find a new rehgion 
psychologically congenial to his temperament, culture change can 
be much accelerated. 

Borrowing is always selective. When the Natchez Indians of 
Mississippi came into contact with French traders they readily 
adopted knives, cooking-pots, and fire-arms. They learned to 
shake hands in European fashion. They took at once to chicken- 
raising even though not attracted by European methods of farm- 
ing. Contrary to folk-lore, they refused hquor. A tribe in 
Western Canada took over a well-known folk-tale, “The Ant 
and the Grasshopper,” but completely altered the moral to fit its 
own established pattern. 

Sometimes the outward form is kept unaltered, but the trait is 
given a completely different set of meanings. A kind of visionary 
experience, called the Guardian Spirit Complex, spread among 
many tribes of Western North America. In one tribe it was part 
of the ceremonies of adolescence, in another it was made the basis 
for training as a shaman, in still another it was fitted into clanship 
practices. Sometimes the culture trait is modified by improving 
inventions. Thus, the Greeks took over a consonantal alphabet 
from the Phcenicians, but added vowels. 

Some cultural elements characteristically spread much more 
rapidly than others. In general, material objects spread more 
rapidly than ideas because the linguistic factor is not involved and 
because ideas demand sharper alterations of estabhshed value- 
patterns. There are exceptions, however. The Indians of the 
Plateau region were more receptive to CathoHcism than to 



European material culture. In general, women are more resistant 
to culture change than men, perhaps because in most societies, 
until recently, they had much less contact with the outside world. 

Dixon has compared cultural diffusion to the spread of a forest 
fire. Depending on the direction of the winds, the relative dry- 
ness of different kinds of timber, and the existence of water or 
other barriers, a fire docs not develop evenly from its origin. It 
may leap over a whole wood and rage with undiminished fury 
beyond. In the same way seaborne diffusion is often discon- 
tinuous. If a people migrates it will diffuse whole complexes of 
traits that have been united merely by historical accidents. If 
traits are spread merely by the contact of individuals or by books, 
bundles of traits may still be diffused, but they arc likely to be 
logical trait complexes hke the horse, saddle, bridle, spurs, and 

Ralph Linton has estimated that not more than lo per cent, 
of the material objects used by any people represents its own in- 
vention. This proportion is steadily shrinking under present-day 
conditions of commimication. A week’s menu in an American 
home may well include chicken, which was domesticated in 
South-east Asia; olives, wliich originated in the Mediterranean 
region; com bread, the meal of an American Indian plant, baked 
in an aboriginal fashion; rice and tea from the Far East; coffee, 
which was probably domesticated in Ethiopia; citrus fruits, which 
were first cultivated in South-east Asia, but reached Europe by 
way of the Middle East; and perhaps chih from Mexico. A 
particular food habit gets estabUshed through the historical acci- 
dents of original contact: Indians in Canada drink tea; Indians in 
die United States drink coffee. 

The course of cultural evolution both resembles and differs 
from that of biological evolution. In culture change there are 
sudden spurts reminiscent of those abrupt alterations in hereditary 
materials that biologists call mutations. In fact, ChUde maintains 
that these sudden cultural advances have the same sort of bio- 
logical effect as organic mutations. The invention of a food- 
producing economy made possible not only settled village life 
and specialization of labour but also great increase of population. 



Childe sees no less than fifteen basic cultural mutations under- 
lying what he calls the “urban revolution/’ No set of events in 
known history is so dramatic as this burst of creativity. The 
achievements of Egypt and Babylonia, which our school-books 
still portray as the bases of modem civiHzation, pale into relative 
insignificance, for they contributed only two first-rate discoveries: 
decimal notation and aqueducts. 

Exactly when and where the momentous inventions of domestic 
plants and animals, pottery, the plough, weaving, the sickle, the 
wheel, metallurgy, the sailing ship, architecture, and the rest of 
the complex occurred is still in doubt. They appear together by 
about 3000 B.c. in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Mesopotamia, 
and Iran. The earUest definitely estabhshed dates for domestic 
animals and pottery are about 5000 b.c. Metallurgy appears 
about 4000 B.C., the sailing ship between 4000 and 3000. The 
wheel is not known to be earlier than about 3000 b.c. All of 
these dates may be pushed further back by new discoveries. In 
the opinion of some authorities the whole complex will eventually 
be proved to have been originated round 7000 b.c. — plus or minus 
a thousand years. When first encountered in these sites this new 
technology and economy seem already to have passed through 
their formative stages. The transition from food-collecting to 
food-producing is perhaps the most significant revolution in 
human history. It was a genuine addition (‘mutation’) — not just 
a development. 

This same tendency to sudden bursts has been demonstrated 
through the course of the major civiHzations in Kroeber’s great 
book. Configurations of Culture Growth, The famous names of 
philosophy, science, sculpture, painting, drama, Hterature, and 
music tend to cluster in periods which range in length from thirty 
or forty years to as much as a thousand. To present an example 
not given by Kroeber, the following important pubHcations all 
appeared in the single year, 1859: Darwin’s Origin of Species, 
Marx’s Critique of Political Economy, Virchow’s Cellular Pathology, 
Littre’s Paroles de Philosophie Positive, Bain’s Emotions and the Will, 
Whately’s Lessons on the Mind, It could be added that this was 
the year of the discovery of spectrum analysis, of the founding of 



the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, and of the pubUca- 
tion of three novels by Trollope. “Cultures appear to grow in 
patterns and to fulfill or exhaust these.” There is thus a cycHcal 
element in human history. 

Of the causes of culture growth and decay little more can be 
said at present than that they are complicated. As A. V. Kidder 
has written: 

A thousand explanations have been offered. The geneticist attri- 
butes slumps to bad genes and recoveries to happy combinations of 
good ones; the nutritionist sees things in terms of vitamins; the 
medical man in terms of diseases; the sociologist perceives faults or 
virtues in this or that aspect of social organization. The theologian 
blames heresies. And if all else fail, we can always appeal to climatic 
changes or economic determinism. 

The anthropologist insists that an appeal to any one factor is 
always wrong. And this negative generalization is important in 
a world where man is always trying to simplify his environment 
by pointing to the cause: race, climate, economics, culture, or 
whatever. Kroeber says, “No amount or type of external in- 
fluence will produce a burst of cultural productivity unless the 
internal situation is ripe.” He adds, however, that in most cases 
a direct relationship can be shown to external stimulation, notably 
that of new ideas. 

In an intellectual climate dominated by economic and bio- 
logical notions the role of ideas has been underplayed. It has been 
fashionable to maintain that such movements as the Reformation 
and the Crusades were primarily economic. Yet the fact that 
during the wars of the Reformation people thought they were 
fighting about religion and were directly motivated by senti- 
ments involving rehgion camiot be explained away. In any case 
it must not be forgotten that labels like ‘economics’ and ‘rehgion’ 
are abstractions — ^not clear-cut categories given directly by 
experience. Here is the main error of those Communists who 
claim that economic phenomena are primary. They are making 
an abstraction come alive — what Whitehead has called “the 
fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” Actually, the Marxist position 
is amusing in view of the history of Russia since 1917. Does 


anyone seriously think that the industrialization of Russia woukl 
have proceeded so rapidly had not Russia been under tlic sway of 
Marxist ideas? Were economic need alone sufficient to produce 
a communistic revolution, all of China would have become 
totally communistic long ago. 

There are some regularities in the historical process as in 
organic development. The fixity of the stages of cultural evolu- 
tion is exaggerated by the Marxist anthropologists, for some 
peoples seem to have gone directly from hunting and collecting 
to agriculture without passing through an epoch of pastoralism. 
Other tribes have gone directly from stone tools to iron tools. 
Nevertheless, in general, culture developments have followed 
about the same series of steps. There seem even to be some more 
or less irreversible trends. For example, there is only a single 
known instance of a society’s moving from patrilineal to matri- 
lineal institutions. The breakdown of cultural isolation is fol- 
lowed sooner or later by increased secularization and indivi- 
dualization. Cities breed heresies; a cosmopolitan society is never 
a homogeneous society. Cultural climaxes are followed by 
periods of disintegration and confusion. 

Culture development resembles organic evolution, then, in its 
uneven character and in its following certain directional trends. 
On the other hand, as Kroeber says : 

The tree of life is eternally branching, and never doing anything 
fundamental but branching, except for the dying away of branches. 
The tree of human history, on the contrary, is constantly branching 
and at the same time having its branches grow together again. Its 
plan is tlierefore much more complex and difficult to trace. Even its 
basic patterns can in some degree blend; which is contrary to all 
experience m the merely organic realm, where patterns are irrever- 
sible in proportion as they are fundamental. 

If one defines progress as the gradual enrichment of human 
ideas and subjects, there can be no question that the potential 
resources of human culture in general and of most individual 
cultures have steadily increased. The amount of energy harnessed 
per person per year has increased from an estimated 0*05 horse- 




power per day at the beginning of culture history to 13*5 in the 
United States in 1939. The number of ideas and of forms of 
artistic expression is also vastly greater. Any argument as to 
whether the intellectual and aesthetic life of classical Greece was 
‘superior’ to ours is essentially futile. Yet we do not need 
scientific proof that human misery and degradation are evil. Our 
culture certainly represents an advance over the Greek to the 
extent that slavery is abolished, the position of women more 
nearly approaches that of equality, and our ideal is that of equal 
access to education and comfort for all, rather than for a tiny 
minority. Progress, however, has a spiral character rather than 
that of an unbroken climb. Childe writes : 

Progress is real if discontinuous. The upward curve resolves itself 
into a series of troughs and crests. But in those domains that archae- 
ology as well as written history can survey, no trough ever declines to 
the low level of the preceding one, each crest outtops its last pre- 

The historical approach thus leads to important conclusions of 
some generality. In this connexion one ghost must be laid. 
During the twenties and thirties anthropologists spilled a good 
deal of ink on a controversy over ‘history’ versus ‘function.’ 
This is now almost universally regarded as a false issue. One 
anthropologist may legitimately emphasize descriptive synthesis 
in which the loistorical context is preserved in all its details. 
Another may emphasize the role that a given pattern plays in 
meeting the physical or psychological needs of the group. Both 
approaches are necessary; they supplement each other. Nor is 
any watertight isolation practical in actuality. The historical 
anthropologist can never completely avoid questions of meaning 
and function. The archaeologist, in contrast to the geologist, can 
never stop with the description of what is present in a stratum. 
He is compelled to ask, “What is it for.^” Similarly, the social 
anthropologist is forced to reaUze that the processes that determine 
events are imbedded in time as well as in situation. 

Let us take the example of the Ghost Dance cult among the 
Sioux Indians sixty years ago, when they were beset on all sides 



by the white man. The more general features of this pre- 
dominantly native religion can probably be explained in func- 
tional terms. In fact, one of the best established generalizations 
of social anthropology is that when the pressure of whites upon 
aborigines reaches a certain point there will be a revival of the 
ancient religion or a partially new cult of messianic type will arise. 
In either case the nativistic faith preaches the old values and 
prophesies the withdrawal or destruction of the invaders. This 
has occurred in Africa and Oceania as well as in the Americas. 
The emotional appeal of such doctrine is not hard to understand. 
But, once we try to understand specific traits of the Ghost Dance 
religion, psychology and function lead us only to confusion unless 
we bring in history. Why are certain symbolic acts directed 
always towards the west? Not because the west is the land of the 
setting sun, nor because it is the place of the nearest ocean, nor 
for any other reason that might be deduced from general psycho- 
logical principles. The west is significant because of a specific 
historical fact — the founder of the cult came to the Sioux from 

Could a present-day Martian visitor to the United States make a 
sensible interpretation of States Rights on the basis of the con- 
temporary facts? Surely they could be comprehended only if he 
were able to project himself back into the circumstances of 1787, 
when small Rhode Island had good reason to fear large Massa- 
chusetts and Virginia. Any given culture trait can be fully under- 
stood only if seen as the end point of specific sequences of events 
reaching back into the remote past. Forms persist; functions 

The complex historical events that have led to the diversifica- 
tion of cultures cannot be accounted for by any simple formula. 
The stimulus of foreign objects and ideas and of environmental 
changes has been important. Crowded conditions due to popula- 
tion increases have forced new social and material inventions. 
Populational pressures have also led to migrations which have 
been significant because of their selective character. Emigrants 
are never a random biological, temperamental, or cultural sample 
of the home people. While many patterned ways of reacting 



unquestionably represent almost inevitable responses to an external 
environment in which the group lives or once lived, there are 
certainly also many cases where the conditions merely limit the 
possibility of response rather than eventually compel one and 
only one mode of adaptation. These are the ‘accidents of 

Let me give an example or two. In a society where the chief 
really has great power one particular chief happens to be bom 
with a glandular disorder which brings about an unusual per- 
sonahty. By virtue of his position he is able to bring about 
changes, congenial to his temperament, in the way of life of his 
group. Such a circumstance has been known to be followed by 
relatively temporary or relatively enduring changes in culture 

Or suppose that in the same group a chief dies as a relatively 
young man, leaving an infant as his heir. This has been observed 
to result in a marked crystallization of two factions around two 
rival older relatives, each of whom has about equally valid claims 
to act as ‘regent.’ A schism occurs. Each group thereafter 
pursues its own separate destiny, and the end result is the forma- 
tion of two distinguishable variants of what was at one time a 
homogeneous culture. Now, to be sure, it is likely that the 
original factional lines had their bases in economic, populational, 
or other conditions. In short, the form and the mesh of the “sieve 
which is history” must be seen as shaped not only by the total 
environment at any given point in time but also by individual 
psychological and accidental factors. 

One of the diagnostic features of a culture is its selectivity. 
Most specific needs can be satisfied in a wide variety of ways, but 
the culture selects only one or a very few of the organically and 
physically possible modes. “The culture selects” is, to be sure, a 
metaphorical way of speaking. The original choice was neces- 
sarily made by one or more individuals, and then followed by 
other individuals (or it wouldn’t have become culture). But from 
the angle of those individuals who later learn the culture the 
existence of this element in a design for Hving has the effect not 
of a selection made by these human beings as a reaction to their 


own particular situation but rather of a choice which still binds, 
though made by individuals long gone. 

Such a selective awareness of the natural environment, such a 
stereotyped interpretation of man’s place in the world, is not 
merely inclusive — by implication it also excludes possible alterna- 
tives. Because of the strain towards consistency in cultures such 
inclusions and exclusions are meaningful far beyond the specific 
activity which is overtly involved. Just as the ‘choice’ of an indi- 
vidual at a crucial epoch commits him in certain directions for 
the rest of his life, likewise the original bents, trends, and interests, 
which become estabhshed in the way of life of a newly formed 
society tend to chaimel a culture in some directions as opposed to 
others. Subsequent variations in the culture — both those which 
arise internally and those wliich are a response to contact with 
other cultures or to changes in the natural environment — are not 
random. Cumulative small changes tend to occur in the same 

This is inevitable because no human being, save a newborn 
child, can ever see the world freshly. What he sees and his inter- 
pretations of what he secs are filtered through the invisible screen 
of culture. As Ruth Benedict has written: 

The anthropologist’s role is not to question the facts of nature but 
to insist upon the interposition of a niiddle term between “nature” 
and “human behaviour”; his role is to analyze that term, to docu- 
ment man-made doctorings of nature and to insist that these doc- 
torings should not be read off in any one culture as nature itself. 
Although it is a fact of nature that the child becomes a man, the 
way in which this transition is effected varies from one society to 
another, and no one of these particular bridges should be regarded 
as the “natural” path to maturity. 

By the same principle the changes that occur in a people’s culture 
when the people moves into a new physical environment are not 
simply the result of environmental pressures plus biological needs 
and limitations. 

The use that is made of plants, animals, and minerals will be 
hmited and directed by the existent or potential meanings that 
these have in the cultural lore. The adaptation to severe cold or 



extreme heat will depend upon the cultural skill available, Man’s 
response is never to brute physical facts as such, but always to such 
facts as defined in cultural terms. To people who do not know 
how to work iron the presence of iron ore in the natural habitat 
is in no significant sense a ‘natural resource.’ Hence cultures found 
in highly similar physical environments are often far from identi- 
cal, and cultures observed in different environments are some- 
times very much ahke. 

The natural environments of the United States are very various, 
and yet the Americans of the arid South-west and of rainy Oregon 
still behave in ways which arc easily distinguishable from the ways 
of Australian desert dwellers on the one hand and inhabitants of 
verdant England on the other. 

Tribes like the Pueblo and Navaho, living in substantially 
identical natural and biological environments, still manifest very 
different ways of life. The English who live in the Hudson Bay 
region and those who live in British Somaliland still share com- 
mon designs for living. It is true, of course, that the different 
natural environments are responsible for observable alterations. 
But the striking fact is that, in spite of the tremendous differences 
in the physical environment, shared designs for living still persist. 

The inhabitants of two not very distant villages in New Mexico, 
Ramah and Fence Lake, are both of the so-called ‘Old American’ 
physical stock. A physical anthropologist would say they repre- 
sented random samples from the same physical population. The 
rocky tablelands, the aimual rainfall and its distribution, flora and 
fauna surrounding the two villages hardly show perceptible varia- 
tions. The density of population and the distance from a main 
road is almost the same in the two cases. Still, even the casual 
visitor immediately notices distinctions. There are characteristic 
differences in dress; the style of the houses is different; there is an 
inn in one town and not in the other. A completion of this cata- 
logue would demonstrate conclusively that different patterns of 
life prevail in the two settlements. Why? Primarily because the 
two villages represent variants of the general Anglo-American 
social tradition. They have sUghtly different cultures : Mormon 
and transplanted Texan. 



On the other hand, the differences between cultures that have 
long existed in the same physical environment do diminish, though 
differences never completely disappear. The Irish village of Adare 
was settled some two hundred and fifty years ago by German 
Protestants and still retains a distinct culture. The more marked 
the character of the environment, the more various cultures in it 
gradually come to resemble each other. Clothing and other 
aspects of material culture are especially likely to reflect the 
environmental situation, even if, as in the case of Europeans who 
continue to wear European-style clothing in the tropics, there are 
instances where the cultural compulsive stubbornly resists the 
demand for environmental adaptation. Occasionally a particular 
physical setting makes the continuation of an imported cultural 
tradition quite impossible. More often, there are slow selective 
modifications under environmental influence. The gradual 
development of regional cultures in the United States is in part 
traceable to the differing characters of the populations who settled 
in these sections, and in part to the general tendency for environ- 
mental areas to become culture areas. At the primitive level 
correlations between environment and economic or political life 
are generally much more marked. Rug techniques usually deve- 
lop among nomadic peoples in arid regions. There is almost 
always an absence of strongly centralized government among 
desert folk. Under primitive conditions patrilineal bands of per- 
haps fifty members are the normal form of social organization m 
regions where the population is one per square mile or less. 
Steward has shown close resemblances between the social patterns 
of Bushmen, African and Malaysian Pygmies, Australians, Tas- 
manians, and Southern California Indians. 

Nutrition is, of course, the joint product of environment and 
culture. The natural resources must be available, but a tech- 
nology for exploiting them is equally necessary. The same climate 
and soil can support a vastly greater population if a new and more 
suitable crop is introduced by diffusion. A dense population, in 
turn, is the condition of certain types of cultural elaborations. 
Ralph Linton has suggested that a sudden spurt in the develop- 
ment of the prehistoric cultures of the American South-west is 



connected with the introduction of the bean into this area. Human 
beings can do very well on a starchless diet, but a certain minimum 
of proteins and fats appears to be essential. In many parts of the 
world these arc supplied by dairy products, in others by meat or 
fish, in still others by various types of bean. In aboriginal America 
dogs and turkeys were eaten in some places as occasional luxuries. 
Inland peoples for the most part had to depend on hunting and on 
nuts and a few wild plants for their proteins and fats. This meant 
that no large group could live permanently in one district. The 
development of a cultivated protein crop set a considerably higher 
population limit. 

The physical environment both limits and facilitates. If we 
consider the geography of Greece, the slowness of political unifi- 
cation is not surprising. Conversely, since Egypt forms one com- 
pact strip of habitable land, early political union was easy. The 
physical environment may stimulate. To live at all in parts of the 
Arctic the Eskimo had to become extraordinarily ingenious in 
developing mechanical techniques. The ruder a people the more 
obvious is the environmental warp in the fabric of the culture. 
But environment never in any literal sense creates. The harbours 
of Tasmania are as good as those of Crete or England, yet the 
Tasmanians never developed a maritime culture — partly, to be 
sure, because Tasmania was so far from the main highways of 
developing civilization. A culture is always, of course, condi- 
tioned by its ways of making a living. An abundance of cliildren 
is likely to be more valued by agriculturists than by hunters. 
Small children are something of a nuisance to elders who must 
move about a good deal, and it is some years before a youngster 
makes much contribution to a hunting economy. A toddler, 
however, begins to be of use in weeding the garden and scaring 
off birds. Social stratification is not well developed in a group 
that lives by collecting and hunting in a region where the food 
supply is ample. Sophisticated arts and crafts do not arise except 
when the economy makes possible specialization and some leisure. 
But in each case note that the physical environment is a necessary 
but not a sufficient condition. Certain conditions make agricul- 
ture possible — given a certain technology (i.e., culture). If agri- 



culture is practised the social organization will probably differ 
from that of a group of hunters. However, the environmental 
foreground only invites agriculture: it does not compel it. The 
cultural background is the determining factor once the natural 
situation is permissive. 

Yet both factors are of essential importance — as is also the bio- 
logical. Under given circumstances some one of these factors 
may be of greater strategic significance than the others, but none 
must ever be lost to intellectual sight. Americans find it emo- 
tionally more satisfying to single out the key to the situation. 
This dangerous delusion is pleasantly satirized by W. J. Hum- 
phreys, a learned authority upon climate: 

What is it moulds the life of man? 

The weather. 

What makes some black and otlicrs tan? 

The weather. 

What makes the Zulu live in trees, 

And Congo natives dress in leaves 

While others go in furs and freeze? 

The weather. 

What makes some glad and others sad? 

The weather. 

What makes die farmer hopping mad? 

The weather. 

What puts a mortgage on your land, 

That makes you sweat to beat the band, 

Or takes it off before demand ? 

The weather. 

The riddle of the building of cultures may be solved only if we 
give three factors their just due: antecedent culture, situation, and 
biology. Situation includes the limitations and potentialities in- 
herent in the physical environmental setting : soils and topography, 
plants and animals, climate and location. Situation also includes 
facts, such as the density of population, which are the result of 
both cultural and biological factors. Biology takes in both the 
capacities and Hmits of human beings in general and those 
qualities that are specific to particular individuals and groups. 
These latter are peculiarly difficult to handle because it is so hard 



to disentangle the hereditary from the environmental. However, 
as Ellsworth Huntington says, “heredity runs hke a scarlet thread 
through history.’’ The role of individuals with exceptional here- 
ditary endowments is beyond dispute. It is also probable that 
groups differ in the proportion of persons who are creative or who 
can adjust readily to changed conditions. The Polynesians learned 
to use firearms with incredible rapidity; the Bushmen after cen- 
turies of contact have not taken either to the gun or to the horse. 

Some comparisons between cultural and biological develop- 
ment have already been made. It should be added that organic 
evolution, in spite of occasional sudden spurts, proceeds much 
more slowly. Some scholars believe indeed that cultural evolu- 
tion has leaped so far beyond biological evolution in the last few 
thousand years that it is out of control, that man is now at the 
mercy of a superorganic machine that he created but can no 
longer direct. 

At any rate, that aspect of biological anthropology that is his- 
torically oriented has now traced much of the course of human 
evolution for at least half a million years. Certain crucial features 
are, as in the case of cultural evolution, still somewhat mysterious. 
Until not so long ago the picture seemed relatively simple in its 
main outlines and appeared to fit well with Darwinian notions of 
evolution. During the early part of the period geologists call the 
Pleistocene there existed in Java a kind of ape man or man-ape 
known as Pithecanthropus erectus. By mid-Pleistocene times there 
were true men, though not of modem type, in Cliina, Europe, 
and Africa. Many authorities felt that these biologically primi- 
tive, still somewhat ape-like men represented the kind of evolu- 
tion that might be expected from creatures similar to Pithecan- 
thropus, From about 100,000 years ago to about 25,000 years ago 
the Neanderthal race, a variety evolving in the same direction but 
still crude, lived in Europe, North Africa, and Palestine. Then 
appeared types approaching the hving species of man (which we 
modestly call Homo sapiens) who gradually exterminated the 
Neanderthals, possibly absorbing them to some degree. 

The older interpretation was that the course of human evolu- 
tion was steadily divergent, like a tree with many branches. The 



branches lower down the trunk, Hke the Neanderthals, withered 
away one by one, leaving Homo sapiens as the only surviving 
branch. The most recent development was the splitting of this 
branch into diverging twigs — the present human races. Present 
knowledge seems, however, to require a different view. The Java 
fossils are now generally regarded as a true species of man and 
closely related to China man (Sinanthropus) of the same period. 
Homo sapiens, instead of being a recent progressive branch, appears 
in Europe at least as early as the second interglacial period (/.c., 
earlier than the more ape-like Neanderthals). Some eminent 
scholars think that the Piltdown man of England, who shows 
certain resemblances to modem man, must be dated in the first 
interglacial. A recent interpretation of these facts is that during 
the whole of the Pleistocene different strains of human beings 
were, in different regions and at different speeds, passing through 
parallel phases of the evolutionary process that led from apes to 
modem human types. According to this view, Java man may be 
considered a direct ancestor of the Australian aborigines, China 
man of the Mongoloid, Neanderthal man of the European races, 
and perhaps PJiodesian man or other African fossils of the Negroes. 

Whence our ancestors came and when, what they were hke, 
and how ancient are the distinctions between present varieties of 
men must still be regarded as undecided. We know that the 
process was long and complex. We know that biological evolu- 
tion hke cultural evolution tends to continue in the directions it 
begins. In the course of this ‘drift’ selection is operative in both 
cases. But in the case of biological evolution the variations persist 
to the extent that they promote the survival of the human animal. 
Cultural selection centres increasingly in struggles over competing 
sets of values. Biological and cultural anthropology are a unity 
because both are necessary to answer the central question: How 
did each people come to be as it is? 

Dixon has eloquently summarized the general principles 
bear on this question: 

. . . exotic traits brought by diffusion and local traits 
out of their cultural heritage by adaptation or 
vented by their own genius and correlated in 



with their environment — of these two elements the fabric of a 
people’s culture is woven. The foundation or warp comes from 
within, the exotic elements or weft, from without; the warp is static 
in that it is tied in some measure to the environment, the weft is 
dynamic, mobile, drifting along diffusion lines. The textile analogy 
may indeed be carried further with profit. For, if the environment of 
a people be strongly marked, the warp, the basic traits of their cul- 
ture that arc correlated in some degree with environment, will tend 
also to be sharply defined; and if the weft, the exotic traits which 
come to them, arc few and weak, the warp will stand out in their 
culture, ribbed and strong as in a rep. So in the case of the Eskimo, 
the traits based on the very clearly defined environment stand out 
sharply, there being little in the way of exotic elements which have 
reached this isolated group. Where, on the other hand, the environ- 
ment lacks strong individuality so that the basic traits are relatively 
undistinguished, whereas the exotic traits supplied by diffusion are 
many and striking, then the weft clement may come to overlay the 
warp and largely conceal it, as in a satin. . . . The culture traits drawn 
by each people, then, from the opportunities and limitations of their 
habitat formed the basis of their culture, its warp, stretching between 
themselves and their environment. Across it the moving shuttles of 
diffusion spread the weft of exotic traits derived from far and near, 
combining warp and weft into a pattern which the genius and the 
history of each people determined for itself. ... We live in a three- 
dimensional world, and human culture is built in accordance with it. 
It is not linear and one-dimensional, as the extreme diffusionists 
would have it; it is not a mere two-dimensional surface of con- 
trasted habitats, as the environmentalists might be said to describe it. 
It is rather a solid structure, set firmly on a base whose breadth lies 
in the variety of environment which the world affords, and whose 
length is the sum of all diffusion throughout the whole of human 
history. The height to which it rises is varied, and is measured by 
the elusive something, compounded of intelligence, temperament, 
and genius, possessed in differing degree by every tribe and nation 
and race. 

Cultures are not constants, but are always in the making. Bio- 
logical evolution also is always going on. The events of both 
cultural and biological history are not isolated but patterned; his- 
tory consists in patterns as well as in events. So long as the past 



and the present are outside one another knowledge of the past is 
not of much use in the problems of the present. But if part of 
the past lives on in the present, even if hidden beneath the present’s 
contradictory and more prominent features, then historical know- 
ledge brings insight. The cultural fabric may be compared to a 
shot silk of contradictory colours. It is transparent, not opaque. 
To the trained eye the past gleams beneath the surface of the 
present. The business of the anthropological historians is to reveal 
the less obvious features hidden from a careless eye in the present 



An industrious Hungarian physical anthropologist, von Torok, 
used to take more than five thousand measurements on each skull 
he studied. The great English anthropologist, Karl Pearson, 
devised an instrument called the cranial co-ordinotograph in order 
to be able to describe the skull in terms of certain modern geo- 
metries. He said that when he was in good practice he could 
deal with one skull in six hours. 

Small wonder that physical anthropologists have seemed to the 
general public and even to their scientific colleagues to be obsessed 
with skulls. It is true that some of the measurements made by 
classical physical anthropology bore scant relation to what modem 
experimental embryology has taught us about the actual processes 
of growth of bones and tissues. It is also true that some of the 
thinking of physical anthropologists was not remodelled as 
quickly as it should have been to fit with the new knowledge of 
heredity first gained by Gregor Mendefs experiments with peas 
in a monastery garden. For a time physical anthropology was, on 
the whole, in the backwater of the sciences. 

Nevertheless, the preoccupation with measuring and with 
observation of small anatomical curiosities was part and parcel of 
anthropology’s main task — the exploration of the range of human 
variation. The physical anthropologist was doing in human bio- 
logy what was identical in principle with the work of the archaeo- 
logists and ethnologist on human culture. And the rigorous and 
standardized J tecliniques of measurement developed by the 
physicaTanthropologists had immediate practical utiHty. 

The first applications were in the field of mihtary anthropology. 
It was possible to estabUsh physical standards for recruits, saying 




accurately by how much a given man was above or below the 
average of a particular age and economic group in respect to 
stature, weight, and the like. This information facilitated scientific 
selection, rejection, and classification. A little later these types of 
classification were utilized by insurance companies and educa- 
tional institutions. A further development in the military field 
was for problems of procurement. How many overcoats of size 
forty-two will be needed among a million men drafted from the 
North-east Central States ? Given certain ranges of distribution in 
a carefully selected sample measured by standardized techniques, 
it is possible to make predictions that are far better than guesses 
based on an unsystematic evaluation of previous experience. 

The utility of physical anthropology in fitting clothing and 
gadgets to men progressed greatly during the Second World 
War. The problems presented were crucial. Gas-masks aren’t 
much help unless they fit properly, yet they can’t be made to 
measure for each individual. Certain escape hatches in planes 
proved to be too small for safety unless great care was taken to 
assign undersized men to particular posts. The numbers of men 
small enough to operate gun turrets were inadequate in many 
units. The paramount importance of space in aviation and in tank 
warfare required anthropological research on human factors in 
engineering design and in the assignment of personnel. In the 
operation of many war machines the limiting factor in accuracy 
became not the machine but the man who controlled it. The 
physical anthropologist helped greatly in ensuring that hand con- 
trols, foot controls, seating, and optical apparatus were geared to 
tbe natural positions and movements of the human body — 
assuming given distributions of limb measurements and the like 
Vvithin the groups selected for each task. 

Applied physical anthropology is developing in the same direc- 
tions in civilian life. Professor Hooton conducted extensive 
research for a railway company to design scats that would ac- 
commodate the widest possible variety of shapes and dimensions 
of human bottoms. An English anthropologist is working on seat- 
ing arrangements for school children. Manufacturers of clothing 
are reahzing that they require knowledge of the needs of the 



consumer as well as of the retailer if they are to avoid dead inventor- 
ies. Here the knowledge of tlie social anthropologist is being joined 
to that of the physical anthropologist, for account is being taken 
of regional, economic, and social-class groups. Systems are being 
worked out whereby accurate predictions may be made of the 
buying public’s size distribution from year to year among, say, 
Arkansas farm-women as contrasted with Pennsylvania factory 
women of the same age-group. Designers can then make new 
garments in sizes to suit the particular populations for which these 
garments are intended. 

As a result of all his measurings and minute. observations, the 
physical anthropologist is also an expert on identifications. A 
skeleton is found. Is it a man or woman Healthy or not? Young 
or old? Was the living person stocky or slender, tall or short? Is 
it the skeleton of an American Indian? If so, it doubtless repre- 
sents a decent interment of a century or two ago. If, however, it 
is identified as of European stock, a question of murder may be 
involved. Physical anthropologists have settled many such ques- 
tions for the F.B.I. and for the state and local police. For example, 
Dr Krogman, as a ‘bone detective,’ showed the Chicago police 
that two assortments of bones from separate addresses on North 
Halstead Street belonged to the same individual. In another case 
he proved that a skeleton was that of a boy of between eighteen 
and nineteen years of mixed Negro and Indian stock — ^not that of 
a white adult of thirty, as claimed by an anatomist testifying for 
an insurance company. 

The main scientific questions to which biological anthropology 
has addressed itself have been these: What are the mechanism, of 
human evolution? Through what processes do local physical 
types develop ? What are the relationships between the structure 
and the fimctions of anatomical and physiological variations? 
What consequences do age and sex differences have? Is there any 
comiexion between types of body-build and susceptibility to 
particular diseases or propensity for certain kinds of behaviour? 
What are the laws of human growth — by age level, by sex, and 
by race? What influence do environmental factors have on 



hnmm physique? How can the form and function of the body 
during childhood and adolescence be so investigated as to develop 
standards for regulating demands upon the physical and mental 
performance of growing youngsters? 

All of these questions are, in a way, specialized aspects of a 
single master problem: How do the variations in hmnan physique 
and in human behaviour relate, on the one hand, to the inherited 
stuff the organism is bom with, and, on the other hand, to the 
pressure exerted upon organisms by die environment? The 
hereditary potentials of human beings are carried upon twenty- 
four pairs of tiny thread-like bodies called chromosomes. Each one 
of these chromosomes contains a very large (though as yet not 
exactly determined) number of genes. Each gene (a sub-micro- 
scopic package of chemicals) is independent in its action and retains 
its individual character more or less indefinitely, though occa- 
sionally there is a sudden change (mutation). Genes are inherited, 
yes. But the exact characteristics that an adult will show can only 
in a limited number of cases be predicted from a knowledge of 
the genetic equipment the child inlicrited at conception. What 
the genes will produce is influenced by the successive environ- 
ments in which the organism matures. Take two simple examples 
from the plant world. There is a kind of reed which will grow 
either under water or in damp soil. Plants in the two situations 
have such an utterly different appearance that the layman can 
scarcely believe that their genes are identical. Some flowers pro- 
duce red blossoms at one temperature, white at another. In the 
rase of human beings the environment within the womb can vary 
considerably, and, after birth, variations in nutrition, care, tem- 
perature, and the like may have momentous consequences. The 
process is complex, not simple. As the distinguished geneticist 
Oobzhansky says : 

Genes produce not characters but physiological states which, 
through interactions with the physiological states induced by all 
other genes of the organism and with the environmental influences, 
cause the development to assume a definite course and the individual 
to display certain characters at a given stage of the developmental 




An individual has the same genes throughout life. But he is 
flaxen as a child, blond as a boy, brown-haired as an adult, grey- 
haired as an old man. On the other hand, of course, no amount 
or kind of environmental pressure will produce a cactus from a 
rose-plant or transform a fawn into a moose. 

A vast complex of conditions external to man is covered by the 
term ‘environment.’ There is the cultural environment. There 
is the social environment — density of population, location of a 
community with respect to main avenues of communication, size 
of a particular family in so far as this is independent of cultural 
patterns. There is the physical environment : mineral content of 
the soil, plants, animals, and other natural resources ; climate, solar 
and cosmic radiations; altitude and topography. Most of these 
environmental influences act on each other. In the total environ- 
mental matrix now one factor, now another bears on the organism 
’with special intensity. 

The human body is responsive to environmental pressures as 
well as to those arising from the inherited genes. Boas demon- 
strated that American-bom descendants of immigrants differ in 
head measurements and stature from their forcign-bom parents 
and that these changes increase with the length of time since 
migration. The cliildren of Mexicans in the United States and 
Spaniards in Puerto Rico also vary from their parents in a pat- 
terned fashion. Shapiro found that Japanese boysl^om in Hawaii 
average 4*1 centimetres taller than their fathers and the girls 1*7 
centimetres taller than their mothers. The body-build of the. 
Hawaiian generation also diflered from that of the Japan-bort) 
parents. ' 

Studying the children of an orphanage, Boas found that when 
diet was improved almost all of the children in the group attained 
the height normal for their age and biological stock. There is no 
doubt that quantity, quahty, and variety of nutrition affect stature 
and other aspects of physique. However, it is equally certain that 
not all variations are traceable to this cause. Japanese remaining 
in Japan have tended to increase in height at least since 1878. This 
same trend has been going on in Switzerland since as far back as 



1792 and may be documented for other European countries from 
the earliest time in the nineteenth century when adequate records 
become available. Of students entering Yale in 1941 those more 
than six feet tall formed 23 per cent, of the class, whereas in 1891 
they constituted only 5 per cent. Some sort of general evolu- 
tionary fendency is at work, for the change antedates the modem 
improvements in diet, hygiene, and exercise to which it has often 
been attributed. The only group of European stock as tall on the 
average as present-day American college students is the Cro- 
Magnon people of the Old Stone Age. Medieval Europeans and 
those of the late Stone Age were much shorter. Mills has argued 
that the increase in stature since medieval times has been primarily 
due to a gradual lowering of temperature. For the present this 
can be regarded only as a hypothesis that needs further testing. 
However, it is interesting that Thomas Gladwin has recently 
presented evidence for the view that men and other animals living 
in tropical climates have evolved in the general direction of 
reduction of size and robustness. 

Selective migration is a complicating factor in interpreting com- 
parisons between emigrants and the parental stocks. The Japanese 
men who came to Hawaii differed significantly from their close 
relatives in the home localities in 76 per cent, of all indices calcu- 
lated. Individuals of certain types of bodily constitution ap- 
parently respond more strongly than do others to an opportunity 
to migrate, and presumably bring to the new environment a 
special group of hereditary potentialities. 

Difficulty in isolating environmental from hereditary factors 
and in segregating environmental factors from one another has 
prevented much progress beyond the generahzations that the 
human physique is unstable in some respects and that both long- 
time and astonishingly short-time developments may be detected 
when the same genes operate under different conditions. New 
work in experimental physical anthropology is testing the results 
of environmental stress in various ingenious ways. Recent statisti- 
cal studies have also indicated some remarkable associations be- 
tween bodily processes, weather conditions, and cycles. 

This does not mean that ‘ the weather is destiny' precisely. But, 


at least in the United States, persons conceived in May and June 
are more likely to be long-lived than those conceived in other 
months. A surprisingly large number of eminent persons were 
bom in January and February. Europeans who move to warm 
climates that lack sharp contrasts in seasons tend to have a 
diminished life expectancy, and their reproductive rates alter. 
Huntington argues that the restlessness and incessant activity of 
Americans from the northern United States is stimulated by fre- 
quent storms and strong changes of weather. He has also pro- 
duced evidence for seasonal fluctuations in crime, insanity, and 
suicide in the United States and European countries and for 
seasonal periodicity of riots in hidia. Finally, Huntington main- 
tains that health and reproduction vary with the rhythms of an 
intricate series of long and short cycles. 

Man is a domesticated animal. Domesticated animals show an 
especially great range of variation, and man appears to be one of 
the most variable of all the animals. Physical anthropologists 
have shown the importance of this variability for practical matters. 
Professor Boas, for example, was a pioneer in demonstrating that 
the chronological and physiological ages of school children often 
fail to coincide. PersonaHty development can be warped if this 
range of variation is overlooked and expectations are based solely 
upon the stereotype for — say, twelve-year-olds. Boas also intro- 
duced a note of sanity into hysterical discussions of the increase of 
numbers in mental hospitals. In part, he said, this reflected merely 
a greater tendency to institutionahzc such individuals rather than 
caring for them in the home. However, even if the proportion 
the mentally ill were actually greater, this meant by the princples 
of statistical distribution that the proportion of superior indi- 
viduals in the population had hkewise increased on the saim scale. 

In many respects biological anthropology has constituted a 
valuable supplement to medicine. This has been true in even so 
apparently impractical a field as the study of human evolution. 
As Professor Hooton has written: 

The speciality known as orthopedics deals, in some degree, with 
bodily difficulties due to man’s imperfect adaptation to an erect pos- 
ture and to a biped mode of progression. Man is a made-over 



animal. In the course of evolution, his ancestors have functioned as 
arboreal pronogrades and brachiators, or arm-progressing tree- 
dwellers — not to mention more remote stages involving other changes 
of habitat, posture and mode of locomotion. This protean history 
has necessitated repeated patching and reconstruction of a more or 
less pliable and long-suffering organism. The bony framework has 
been warped and cramped and stretched in one part or another, in 
accordance with variations in the stresses and strains put upon it by 
different postures and by changes in body bulk. Joints devised for 
mobility have been readapted for stability. Muscles have had vio- 
lence done to their origins and insertions, and have suffered enormous 
inequalities in the distribution of labor. Viscera have been pushed 
about hither and yon, let down, reversed and inverted. In making 
a new machine out of an old one, plenty of obsolete spare parts have 
been left to rattle around inside. . . . That the specialty of orthopedics 
should be based upon the very broadest knowledge and understand- 
ing of these evolutionary changes seems to me so obvious that I 
need not labor the point. 

In the same way physical anthropologists have aided dentists who 
speciahze in troubles with the upper and lower jaws. They have 
also helped dentists by observing the effect of different kinds of 
diet upon the growth and decay of the teeth. A comparative 
study of the varying forms of the female pelvis as related to dif- 
ferent infant and maternal mortahty rates in a wide range of 
human groups has yielded information of practical benefit to 
obstetrics. Pediatrics is another medical speciaHty which has 
profited from the comparative researches of anthropology. 

Anthropology has also had some little influence upon the 
general point of view of the medical profession. It has assisted in 
getting the idea of the whole man back into medicine. The success 
of Pasteur and Lister was so great that physicians tended to stop 
treating men and to treat only single symptoms or their assumed 
causes (c.^., the germ held responsible for the disease). Physicians 
have, understandably, concentrated upon the individual patient 
and upon the sick as a group. Adequate standards of biological 
normahty cannot be achieved on such bases. Anthropology has 
contributed to medicine valid methods of group analysis and a 
sense of the need for numerically adequate samples. It has shown 



that symptoms must often be interpreted only after allowance is 
made for the patient’s position in an age, sex, body-build, and 
ethnic group. For certain symptoms tell much less about the 
patient as an individual than about him as the member of a group. 
Take an example from psychiatry. An old Sicilian, who spoke 
only a httle English, came to a San Francisco hospital to be treated 
for a minor physical ailment. The doctor who examined liim 
noted that he kept muttering that he was being bewitched by a 
certain woman, that this was the real reason for his suffering. The 
doctor promptly sent him to the psychiatric ward where he was 
kept for several years. Yet in the Italian colony from which he 
came everybody of his age-group believed in witchcraft. It was 
‘normal’ in the sense of standard. If some one from the doctor’s 
own economic and educational group had complained of being 
persecuted by a witch, this would have been correctly interpreted 
as a sign of mental derangement. 

The study of the special immunities and susceptibilities of 
various populations is still in its infancy. However, it is well 
known that groups in Africa and Asia arc much more resistant to 
certain germs than arc European immigrants to those areas. 
Cancer and liver disease are much more common in some popula- 
tions than in others. Peculiarities of the blood, giving rise to the 
death of infants at birth (or while still in the womb), differ greatly 
in their incidence among Negroes, Chinese, American Indians, 
and whites. Metabolic processes are influenced by diet, environ- 
ment, and other factors, and are at most only partially determined 
by contrasting genes. The same must be said for many of the 
varying patterns of disease rates among different physical types, 
though some appear to be purely or mainly genetic. For example, 
the specialized character of the Negro skin seems, through its 
heavy pigmentation, to provide relative immunity to some 
diseases of the skin. The coloured inhabitants of Java and South 
Africa are prone to cancer of the Ever but develop less cancer of 
the breast and other organs than do Europeans. Some think, 
however, that this may be due to local infestation by parasites. 
Differing susceptibility to disease has probably been one of the 
chief agencies of natural selection in man. Whooping-cough, 



goitre, and cretinism are especially frequent in Northern Europe; 
the peoples of Central Europe are also vuhierable to goitre and 
cretinism but have relatively few fatalities from pulmonary 
disease; American Negroes are resistant to malaria, yellow fever, 
measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria, but fall prey to diseases of 
heart, lungs, and kidneys and to tuberculosis. Some of these varia- 
tions are obviously traceable to physical environment and factors of 
isolation and exposure as well as to social and economic conditions. 

Constitutional anthropology is also closely related to medical 
problems. As the comparative study of human groups, anthro- 
pology is interested in recognizing and describing every type of 
human physique, whether found within a cultural group or bio- 
logical population or as a cross-section of these. Insurance com- 
panies discovered from experience that some bodily types among 
Americans were better risks than others. Doctors skilled in clinical 
methods long had the visual impressions that men and women of 
certain body-builds were more susceptible to some diseases than 
were those of a different bodily structure. Physicians therefore 
sought from those who were skilled in measuring and observing 
the human body a scientific and workable scheme for describing 
and classifying those physical types that reflected individual consti- 
tution rather than the kind of physical heritage characteristics of 
whites as opposed to Negroes, Negroes as opposed to Eastern 
Asiatics, etc. 

Various combinations of anthropological measurements and 
indices were shown to differentiate the majority of those afflicted 
with certain diseases from the general population. For instance, 
one investigator found that infants with eczema and tetany had 
relatively broader faces, shoulders, chests, and hips than a group 
of healthy infants from the same social environment. On the 
other hand, infants with acute intestinal intoxication and certain 
other ailments had relatively narrower faces and shoulders than 
the control groups. Another study aided in the rapid diagnosis 
and treatment of two kinds of arthritis by indicating that patients 
who were big-boned, big-muscled, and somewhat tapering in 
body-build were much more Hkely to fall into the group with 
degenerative joint disease than into the rheumatic group. 



Susceptibility to tuberculosis, ulcers of various types, certain 
kinds of heart disease, infantile paralysis, and diabetes has been 
plausibly linked to special classes of physique. A most torturing 
variety of headache, migraine, seems to go not only with particu- 
lar psychological and personahty tendencies but also with a pat- 
tern of anatomical features of the skull and face. Men who ap- 
proximate the feminine type in a number of respects and women 
who have many masculine physical traits seem to be especially 
liable to various psychic disorders and also to a group of organic 
ailments. The most immediate practical utihty of all of these 
correlations rests not so much in the aid given to rapid and correct 
diagnosis as in preventive medicine. If one is more likely than 
most people to develop an ulcer of the stomach one is well advised 
to pay more than ordinary attention to diet and to avoidance of 
emotional upsets. 

Recent work points to at least rough correlations between 
body-build and temperament or personaHty. Research by Dr 
Carl Seltzer links a scries of physical disproportions with a ten- 
dency to display a certain pattern of personahty traits. Young 
men who are unusually tall in proportion to their weight, whose 
hips are broad in relation to their shoulders, who have large heads 
as compared to chest dimensions, and who exhibit all or most of 
other specified asymmetries, are, on the average, more sensitive, 
less stable, less capable of making easy social adjustments. Such 
an association does not, of course, hold in every individual case. 
However, such statistical analyses help not only by indicating high 
betting odds that a person of given bodily type will have certain 
personahty trends, but also by clarifying the relation of each indi- 
vidual to liis group. The extent to which he approaches or departs 
from the group averages is an invaluable clue to understanding his 
particular problems. 

One of the most famous studies in constitutional anthropology 
is that by Professor Hooton on the American criminal. His find- 
ing that criminals are, in general, biologically inferior has been 
disputed. Most reviewers have concluded that he took insufficient 
account of socio-economic factors. Hooton makes it perfectly 
clear that criminals “do not bear the brand of Cain nor any 



specific physical stigmata whereby they can be identified at a 
glance.’* However, he presents good evidence for certain associa- 
tions. For example, among criminals as a group, those convicted 
of burglary and larceny are likely to be short and slender; those 
convicted of sex crimes are likely to be short and fat. 

For many of Hooton’s major assertions the cautious reader 
must probably render the Scots verdict of ‘not proven.’ On the 
other hand, a demonstration that some of Hooton’s methods were 
unsatisfactory does not mean that a constitutional factor in crimi- 
nahty can be ruled out. In fact, a dispassionate critic must admit 
that the data strongly indicate that criminals in the United States 
do not constitute a random biological sample of the total popula- 
tion; nor is the distribution of physical types among those con- 
victed of various classes of crimes that which would be expected 
from chance alone. To be sure, pressure of circumstances must 
fire the gun. But all that Hooton claims is that a constitutional 
predisposition makes some individuals more ‘trigger-happy’ than 
others. Some individuals reared in slums and brought into close 
association with older criminals take to crime. Others do not. 
Why, if environmental factors are solely responsible for crimi- 
nahty, do not all individuals in the same situation make the same 
response? In certain cases it may be argued that a peculiar chain 
of events in a life history plus the general environment are enough 
to account for the fact that one brother becomes a thief and another 
a priest. It would be cheering to assume that the environment 
(which is potentially controllable) was always responsible. The 
hard facts, however, suggest that the biological factor deserves 
further study. 

Enormous progress in the accurate description of various body- 
builds has been made through the efforts of Dr W. H. Sheldon 
and his collaborators. Before Sheldon developed the method 
called somatotyping, one could only give an over-all description 
of a given individual briefly by saying he was ‘stocky,’ ‘thin,’ or 
‘medium.’ Otherwise one got into a morass of endless measure- 
ments, indices, and observations. Yet it was clear that actually 
observed individuals exhibited a vast number of gradations of fat- 
ness and leanness and of combinations of these. Sheldon’s system 



takes care of this variation on a continuous scale. Each of five 
separate areas of the body is rated from one to seven with respect 
to the relative prominence of three factors : endomorphy (emphasis 
upon fat and viscera), mesomorphy (emphasis upon bone, muscle), 
and ectomorphy (emphasis upon surface area relative to bulk and 
of nervous system relative to mass). These ratings are combined 
to give a somatotype for the body as a whole. Thus the somato- 
type 226 means that the third component (ectomorphy) is most 
prominent. The individual is skinny and somewhat fragile in 
build but not at the extreme of this type, for the rating is 6 and 
not 7. He has sUght muscular development, for the rating in 
mesomorphy is only 2. He has few fat or softly rounded areas in 
his body, for the endomorphy rating (2) is near the lowest pos- 
sible point. Descriptively he would be called a ‘strong’ — but not 
‘extreme’ — ectomorph. About 25 out of every 1000 college men 
studied received this rating. 

The theoretical number of somato types is 343, but only 76 have 
been observed in the groups studied thus far. Out of 1000 Ameri- 
can males of college age the distribution of types was as follows : 
1 36 endomorphs, 228 mesomorphs, 210 ectomorphs, 190 balanced, 
236 sporadic rare types. In a series of 4000 slightly more than 
three-fourths of the subjects fell into 29 somatotypes. 

There is general agreement that Sheldon’s descriptive classifica- 
tion marks a great advance, though further modifications and 
refinements may be necessary. But there is much controversy 
over the claimed association between somatotypes and certain 
patterns of sixty temperamental traits. It is asserted that meso- 
morphs are primarily interested in activity, ectomorphs in think- 
ing, endomorphs in eating and enjoying life. Some evidence 
suggests that mental patients suffering from delusions of persecu- 
tion and grandeur are likely to be mesomorphic, and those suffer- 
ing from exaggerated shifts in mood either mesomorpliic or 
endomorphic. Patients diagnosed as schizophrenic are commonly 
either ectomorphic or have an inharmonious physique. Prognosis 
for shock treatments seems to be best for those high in endo- 
morphy and worst for those high in ectomorphy. Much work 
remains to be done on the correlations between somatotype and 



personality and between somatotype and susceptibility to particu- 
lar kinds of mental illness. However, there is already good reason 
to believe that some significant relationships exist. 

Somato typing must be regarded as a valuable technique still in 
the exploratory phase. Thus far most of the research has been 
done upon male college students. Few women have been studied. 
Few older and younger groups have been sampled. Little is 
known of age changes in the same individual or of the effects of 
diet or other environmental influences. However, Gabriel Lasker 
has shown that when thirty-four volunteers were subjected to a 
European type of famine diet for twenty-four weeks the somato- 
type of each individual wa^ significantly altered. Most of the 
research has been done upon whites, and it is not known if the 
same tendencies would be found among Cliinese or American 
Indians. The inheritance of somatotypes has not been worked 
out. The external physical characters may turn out to be the 
expression of varying genetic patterns influencing the activity of 
the ductless (endocrine) glands. 

Thus far in this chapter we have been concerned primarily with 
certain appheations of physical anthropology. Let us now turn 
to some impheations. From all the careful work with the cahpers, 
the minute study of small differences in bones, the more recent 
excursions into comparative physiology and constitution, physical 
anthropologists have been able to teach us four lessons of funda- 
mental importance : man’s animal nature and his close kinship to 
other animals, the fact that human evolution cannot be interpreted 
solely in terms of the survival of the fittest, the plasticity of bio- 
logical man, the basic similarity of all types of men. These 
generalizations should be in the background of the thinking of all 
educated people. 

The details of man’s biological relationships to the apes and 
monkeys are still under dispute among the specialists. This much 
is agreed upon: no living primates are ancestral to humankind. 
The gorilla, the chimpanzee, the orang-utan, the gibbon, the Old 
World monkeya, the New World monkeys, living and fossil 
Homo — all are descendants of common ancestors. At some vastly 



distant and as yet undetermined time their keels were laid down 
in the same port; but their voyages luvc been in different direc- 
tions. The evolutionary history of the non-human primates has 
been towards specialization. Man has, on the other hand, con- 
tinued comparatively undifferentiated; he has retained his plas- 
ticity. Possibly the hving apes and monkeys escaped the pressures 
of severe environmental stimulation. They could eat well with- 
out developing furtlrer their potentialities for intelHgence. One 
student of the chimpanzee in its native habitat has speculated that 
the abundance of fruit and other food has encouraged the species 
to divert its energies into emotional channels. The chimpanzee’s 
Hfe has not been hard enough to force the development of new 
abilities and of culture for survival. Man has suffered little from 
such over-mechanization, from ‘ trained incapacity.’ 

Nevertheless we must recognize our brutish relatives as cousins 
in behaviour as well as in a thousand minutiae of anatomy and 
physiology. An infant chimpanzee brought up in a human family 
in exactly the same fashion as its adopted ‘brother’ learned every- 
thing, except toilet control and walking, more rapidly than did 
the human child. Some of tliis animal’s acliievcments seemed to 
involve reasoning. In the curious standard pattern of broken 
somersaults which Hamadryas baboons perform around sexually 
maturing individuals one may be glimpsing the prototype of 
human rites of passage. The adult male baboon will permit one 
of his wives whose sexual skin is swelling to take his food without 
reprisal. Do we not see here one step in the evolution of altruism? 
Yerkes compares the mutual grooming of primates to the affec- 
tionate mutual delousing practised by primitive people; he sees in 
such acts the evolutionary prototype of all social-service activities 
from tlie barber’s to the physician’s. 

The difference between human and primate behaviour is quanti- 
tative, not qualitative, save for speech and the use of symbols. 
Even in this respect one must be cautious in speaking of a clear- 
cut qualitative distinction. Chimpanzees learned to manipulate a 
machine called the chimpomat. They learned that tokens of 
different colours would bring them varying numbers of grapes or 
bananas. They learned to reject brass or other wortliless tokens. 



They learned to work for tokens and to keep them until they were 
next brought to the room where the chimpomats were. There 
was the same kind of variation range in speed of learning as among 
human subjects. The rudiments of speech — or at least different- 
iated cries — have been identified among monkeys as well as among 
chimpanzees and gibbons. 

Just as the differences among the primates, including man, are 
gradations or step-like differences, so the kinship of all the 
primates to certain insignificant insect-eating little animals is also 
clear. All living things are part of a natural order, and men will 
do well to recognize their nature as animals. Man’s history as an 
organism is incredibly ancient, and only to some extent can the 
Hmitations of this liistory be escaped or transcended through 
religion or other creations of the human mind. 

However, that plasticity which is the distinctive feature of man 
as an animal docs permit an amazing variety of adaptations. Few 
other animals live equally in the tropics, in the Arctic wastes, on 
high mountains, and in deserts. When a wliite man moves to 
the tropics there is an average lowering of lo to 20 per cent, in 
basal metabolism, but the individual variability is great. Various 
peoples eat putrefied wood, clay, snakes, vermin, and rotten meat 
or fish. Some tribes live almost exclusively on meat and fish, 
others mainly on vegetables. This flexibility has enabled man to 
survive in regions where animals more spcciaUzed in their food 
habits would have starved. 

No other organism so manipulates its own body. The skull of 
infants is deformed into weird shapes without more damage than 
an occasional headache in the case of the more severe types of 
deformation. Noses, ears, waists, and even the sexual organs are 
subjected to cruel distortions. The fact that no culture has pat- 
terns that implement the full potential muscular repertory of the 
human body is shown by the exercise of the yoga cult. Yogis 
learn to vomit at will, to cleanse the stomach by swallowing and 
expeUing a cloth, to practise colonic irrigation — which involves 
voluntary control over the relaxation of the anal sphincter muscles. 
On the other hand, certain Hmits to biological plasticity are 
attested by the fact that yogis have not been able to learn to open 



the urethral sphincters at will. The bladder is washed only after 
inserting a tube. The variety of sitting and walking postures and 
various uses of the great toe also show that no single culture em- 
ploys all muscles in all possible ways. In fact, it is estimated that 
human beings in general perform muscular work to only about 
20 per cent, efficiency. 

It is in large part because of this plasticity and because of what 
men can do with their minds and their hands that man has re- 
mained a single species. All men are symbol-using animals. All 
men use tools that are almost physiological objects or extensions 
of the bodily mechanism. Monkeys and apes have adapted by 
organic differentiations to the different environments in which 
they Hve and to environmental changes. The result is that there 
are many different species and genera and families that can no 
longer interbreed and have fertile offspring. Male and female of 
every human type can have children. Their adaptations have 
been made primarily in terms of their ways of life, their cultures. 

This is not to say that man has remained uninfluenced by the 
evolutionary process. Human types, readily distinguishable in 
terms of a few features, have evolved. Natural selection and sexual 
selection have played their part. Hmnaii evolution has also been 
complicated by the factor of social institutions. In some societies 
one must marry the children of one’s maternal uncles or one’s 
paternal aunts. In other societies marriage with the cliildren of 
one’s paternal uncles is preferred. In still others marriage to 
cousins or other relatives is specifically forbidden. These and 
other kinds of social selection will, after some generations, result 
in the development of distinct physical types because of the 
differing selection and recombination of hereditary materials 

During the earHer phases of human history small bands lived 
for long periods in isolation. This had a double effect upon the 
evolutionary process. First, through the normal operation of the 
genetic mechanism some hereditary materials disappear. Second, 
if the isolation occurred in regions where the environmental pres- 
sures were somewhat special, those individuals who happened to 
vary in a direction helpful to survival under the special conditions 



would be more likely to perpetuate their stock. Of particular 
interest in this connexion is the presence or absence of minerals 
that stimulate the ductless (endocrine) glands. It has, for example, 
been speculated that the ancestors of the Chinese and other 
Mongoloid types were isolated in a region of iodine deficiency 
during the period between the last two great glaciations. 

In addition to the factors of natural, sexual, and social selection 
and isolation, evolution is influenced by irregularities in the process 
by which the new organism gets chromosomes from its parents 
and by mutations (sudden alterations in the genetic materials). 
How and why mutations occur under normal conditions we do 
not know. Environmental stimulation may have a part in the 
process. We do know that mutations constantly occur. Perhaps 
in the long run Queen Victoria’s greatest claim to fame wiU rest 
in the fact that a mutation for haemophilia took place in her body. 
Of all the countless mutations that occur only those finally survive 
that are either dominant or that give the individual greater chance 
for survival. Finally, evolution has been affected by the new 
combinations of genetic materials produced when race mixture 

Thus, though natural selection has played its part in human 
evolution, chance variations, geographical isolation, and recom- 
binations of hereditary materials have probably been more im- 
portant. There also seem to be broad trends in the evolution of 
species and of whole groups of animals that go on more or less 
independently of environmental pressures and of isolation. Some 
variations, in other words, appear to be not random but rather 
the completion of a pattern predetermined by obscure forces in 
the biological inheritance of the species or family. Hooton views 
with alarm certain apparent tendencies in human evolution at 
present: “Man appears to be an animal that has entered upon a 
terminal and decidedly retrogressive course as respects not only 
his teeth, jaws, and face, but also his brain case, its contents, and 
many other body parts.” Yet the extent to which human beings 
might consciously control the direction of the evolution of their 
kind is highly doubtful. 

Certainly the processes involved in evolution are infinitely more 



complex than Darwin and Huxley imagined. Hence the social 
Darwinism that has pictured ‘advancement’ as due solely to 
bitter competition, to ‘ the war of all against all,’ is a gross over- 
simplification of the truth. As Morris Opler has eloquently 

Primates did not survive to become men because they were par- 
ticularly strong, because they tended to match their bodies against 
other living forms, or because of special physical attributes which 
favored them in bloody competition. They survived because they 
were particularly sensitive and adaptable in their total reactions to 
each other, to other animals, and to their environment. Fitness has 
acquired a meaning in biology more subtle than that of victory in 
physical combat. We are coming to see that aggression, organic 
competition, and appeal to physical force apparently counted for 
little in the development of man and his precursors in the past. 
Even if we did not know this, we could be certain that they chal- 
lenge his stability and his very existence today. It is time that 
political science and social science in general draw from these perti- 
nent biological facts instead of from the organicism which has been 
so popular and so pernicious. 

Some evolutionary variations have survival value in specialized 
environments. One may instance adaptations to extreme cold 
and heat. Eskimos and Tibetans are stocky, with a layer of fat; 
the peoples of Indonesia are slender with relatively large surface 
areas for evaporation of sweat; African Negroes have developed 
many sweat glands and deep pigment. A narrow nose is best 
adapted to the slow intake and warming of air in a cold climate. 
Yet narrow-nosed northern Europeans survive and reproduce in 
the tropics. Though other variations that evolution has brought 
to different human types are interesting curiosities and of some 
scientific importance, their significance as inevitably conditioning 
human life is slight. 

The Japanese have an imusual muscle in their chests. Certain 
hereditary diseases such as hereditary optic atrophy and Oguchi’s 
disease of the retina are more frequent in Japan. The Bushmen 
of South Africa have a queer protuberance of the buttocks which 
scientists call by the delicious word ‘steatopygia.’ The external 



genital organs of both male and female Bushmen also have an 
unusual conformation. The arteries around the ankle show a 
different incidence of various forms among certain healthy African 
Negroes and among whites of the same region. Ruptures of the 
navel at birth are markedly more frequent among East African 
Negroes than among East African whites. White men get bald 
much more frequently than men of other races. However, almost 
none of these differences — and the list could be considerably ex- 
tended — are all-or-none differences. They reflect differing propor- 
tions of certain genes in various populations. Probably more than 
95 per cent, of the biological equipment of any human being in the 
world is shared with all other human beings, including members 
of races popularly considered to be most distinct from his own. 
As a well-known physical anthropologist, W. W. Howells, has 
written : 

Our brains and theirs have the same structure, arc fed by the same 
amount and kind of blood, arc conditioned by the same hormones 
and titillated by the same senses ; that is all well known, and nothing 
in their performance has ever been discovered to point the contrary. 

There is, of course, tremendous individual variability — based 
upon physical inheritance — in the appearance, strength, and capa- 
bilities of men. But these variations cut across local, regional, and 
continental physical types. Nor do ‘race,' language, and culture 
vary together. Occasionally an intermarrying group of people 
with a common language and culture — which Ellsworth Hunting- 
ton has called a ‘kith’ — may for some time be a distinctive and 
potent force, in part because Q'f its special biological inheritance. 
The Puritans provide one of Huntington’s good examples. They 
represented a selection from the total British population; they 
remained in relative biologic isolation in the New World for 
some generations, so that their distinctive inheritance tended to 
be maintained by inbreeding. Note, however, that such a bio- 
logical group does not correspond to the popular conception of 
a ‘race.’ 




Until recently physical anthropologists were, more than anything 
else, describers and classifiers of the physical varieties of man. All 
living types of man belong to the same species. No populations 
have been completely isolated reproductively since their dilFcren- 
tiation. Throughout human history there has been exchange of 
genes between different varieties of man. Some authorities are 
convinced that even the most ancient fossil men of Java, China, 
and Europe represented only geograploical varieties or races of 
the same species. 

In general biology the term ‘race,’ or ‘variety,’ is used to 
: designate a group of organisms that physically resemble one 
* another by virtue of their descent from common ancestors.? Most 
living species of animals are more or less clearly differentiated into 
geographic races. When races are separated by migration barriers, 
the distinctions between them arc definite and consistent. If two 
or more races come to inhabit the same territory over a long 
period of time the differences are gradually erased, and the races 
are fused into a single population tliat is more variable than any 
of the original constituent elements. 

! There are undoubtedly human races. ! However, the make-up 
of breeding populations has shifted so frequently in the course 
of migrations that sharp demarcations are few. Moreover, human 
inheritance is so complex and so imperfectly known as yet that 
differences in visible physical features are not always sure guides 
to differences in ancestry. The extent of present confusion is 
indicated by the fact that the numbers of races distinguished by 
competent students range from two to two hundred. Hence, 
though the concept of race is genuine enough, diere is perhaps no 


race: a modern myth 


field of science in which the misunderstandings among educated 
people are so frequent and so serious. Racial classifications still 
published by certain physical anthropologists arc in some respects 
meaningless or actually misleading in the hght of contemporary 
knowledge about human inlieritance. The significance of a sound 
genetic classification, if we had one, is not yet clear. ^The one 
thing certain is that in the modem world many peoples react 
suspiciously, defensively, or hostilely towards individuals who 
differ in obvious physical characteristics such as skin-colour, hair- 
form, and nose-shape. I 

Throughout human history societies and individuals have been 
conscious of the differences that set them off from other societies 
and other individuals. | Group spokesmen have been concerned 
to assert that their way of dressing, or marrying, or believing was 
intrinsically superior. Sometimes the existence of other customs 
has been treated as an insupportable affront to the pride of the 
group or the laws of its gods. This threat to the dominance of 
the one true way of life has stimulated wars or has, at least, pro- 
vided handy ration aUzations for them. Seldom prior to the nine- 
teenth century, however, were such differences in group habits 
explained as due to variations in the biological heredity of human 

Although ties of ‘blood’ were certainly much invoked to sup- 
port community loyalty, differences in custom were usually 
linked to divine gifts or instructions, to the inventions of bygone 
human leaders, or to other historical experiences of the group 
rather than to physical inheritance. In the ancient and medieval 
religions the idea of race had little or no place. Most of the great 
world rehgions have been deeply committed to the concept of 
universal brotherhood. Often this concept has included the 
expHcit or implicit premise that brotherhood was a feasible goal 
because all human beings were the physical descendants of a single 
pair of original ancestors. The messianic rehgions have necessarily 
held the view that heathens were in error not because they were 
inherently inferior, but because they had known no opportunity 
to learn the true way. 

In the past it has usually been the culturally alien rather than the 



biologically alien that has borne the brunt of reHgious as well as 
political antagonisms. The Bible describes vividly the drastic 
disillusionment resulting from marriages to non-Jews in the time 
of Ezra, but ‘blood’ is treated as the secondary and accidental 
factor, culture as the essential. The self-isolation of the Jew in 
Christian Europe during the Middle Ages was more a matter of 
culture than of biology. Jewish motivations arose from the 
fervent desire to preserve intact a way of life, and especially a 
religion, and not from the wish to keep a line of blood unsullied 
— even though there were occasional references to “die seed of 

Only in the small primitive or folk society where almost every- 
one is in fact biologically related to almost every one else have the 
primary loyalties been frequently anchored to blood kinship. In 
the cosmopolitan societies of the ancient world, in the nations 
that gradually emerged towards the close of the Middle Ages in 
Europe, the major shiftings of individuals and whole peoples 
were too numerous and too recent for any national or regional 
population to be victimized by the illusion of descent from com- 
mon ancestors as distinct from the ancestors of its neighbours. 

It is true that, before the dawn of history, the Bushmen and 
other groups depicted the physical types of foreign peoples and 
that the Egyptians, three thousand years ago, pictured ‘the four 
races of man.’ Probably there has never been a time when any 
people was completely indifferent to the physical differences 
between itself and other peoples. But it is a historical fact that in 
the last hundred and fifty years awareness of these variations and 
emotional reactions to diem have heightened enormously. The 
first Negroes in modem Europe were received in aristocratic 
households as equals; nor was intermarriage frowned upon. 
Certain European racial classifications of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries lumped American Indians with Europeans. 
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century all inhabitants of 
Europe, except the Lapps, were considered a single race. 

Why, then, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 
has a naive biologism become rampant? ^ An underlying condition 
to the flowering of this new mythology was undoubtedly the 

race: a modern myth 


tremendous advance made by biological science| Men’s minds 
were intoxicated by the revolutionary theories of Darwin and by 
the inmiediately practical discoveries of Mendel, Pasteur, Lister, 
and a host of others. Most men, and especially Americans, want 
simple answers. In a world where living, however joyous at 
times, is always precarious and happiness is always threatened by 
present problems and unforeseen contingencies, men lust after 
certainty. The absolutes of religion were weakened by the 
schisms within the Christian Church, on the one hand, and by 
historical criticism of the Bible and scientific findings, on the 
other. The movement was by no means complete, of course, but 
Western humanity tended to seek in science the security formerly 
supplied by religious faith. Physical science was to bring about 
a millennium of ease and comfort; biological science was to 
abolish aU the ills to which flesh had been heir. The twain would 
rapidly answer all the riddles of the universe. What was more 
natural than to assume that the puzzling question of differences 
in the behaviour of individuals and whole groups had been 

Prior to the mid-nineteenth century Europeans and Americans 
had theories that satisfied them as explanations of observed facts. 
The story of the sons of Noah helped to explain the presence of 
humans of different skin-colours and general physical appearance. 
Other variations were dismissed as the will of God. There were 
no authoritative descriptions of biological mechanisms. In the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were a number of 
widely current speculations about the influence of climate on 
physique. The American Indians, for instance, were held by 
some to be the descendants of Phoenicians or of Welsh adventurers 
or of the lost tribes of Israel, with their distinctive appearance 
explained as having been produced by the physical environment 
of the New World. 

The discoveries of Darwin, Mendel, and others put everything 
on a new footing. From the popular point of view, laws had 
been evolved that stated immutable and watertight connexions 
between biological processes and all sorts of other phenomena. A 
magic key had been made which unlocked all previous perplexities 



about human behaviour. Unfortunately, the step from science 
to mythology is short and all too attractive. 

An investigation by A. M. Tozzer of a large number of con- 
temporary biographies showed very dramatically the hold bio-’ 
logical mythology has upon our thinking. In every case the 
biographer seized upon physical heredity as the explanation of the 
personality traits of his subject. Where no plausible ancestors were 
available, legends were used or invented. Perhaps the most far- 
fetched of these was the fantasy that the true father of Abraham 
Lincoln was Chief Justice John Marshall. 

The fact that human beings usually acquire their physical and 
most of their culture heritage from their parents has helped per- 
petuate these behefs. It is part of common experience that peculiar 
traits do ‘run in families,’ but this does not necessarily prove that 
these traits are inherited in the genetic sense. Parents train their 
children by the same standards that were invoked when they were 
children; happy children take their parents as models. In homo- 
geneous and relatively stable cultures family traits may be per- 
petuated for generations, even though ‘the blood line’ is broken 
again and again — as is evidenced by Japanese and Roman Hneages 
where remarkable continuity of character was preserved in spite 
of frequent adoptions to keep the family line intact. 

Misconception is also generated by the circumstance that per- 
sonality development ordinarily goes on at the same time that 
the child is growing up physically; both types of development 
usually stop or at least slow up at about the same time. In general, 
the status of adulthood implies both physical and social maturity. 
Since the two forms of development occur side by side, there is a 
tendency to assume that both are the expression of the same 
process — that is, biological maturation. A human animal, how- 
ever, can easily come to physical maturity without learning to 
speak, use table utensils, or keep himself clean. Children do not 
stop crying over frustration because of progressive atrophy of the 
tear ducts or change in the vocal cords, but because they are taught 
to respond in other ways. In the process of getting food, shelter, 
and other prerequisites for normal physical growth most indi- 
viduals encounter conditions, both social and physical, which 

race: a modern .myth 


force them to accept those responsibiUties and restraints which are 
considered the hall-marks of sociaHzed adults. If children become 
responsible adults through the operation of biological processes, 
home and school training is a waste of energy. Every parent and 
teacher knows that children do not automatically become socially 
mature as they mature physically. 

The same exaggeration of the role of biological forces may be 
noted in popular notions about different peoples. Here also, the 
fact that ‘race’ and life habits vary together has fostered the im- 
pression that both are due to the common cause of biological 
heredity. However, a closer inspection of the facts shows that 
this inference is untenable. Not only do Canadians, Australians, 
and New Zealanders show different typical personality structures 
from each other and from their relatives in Britain, but the British 
stock in the same environment has had a different character at 
various historical periods. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth 
centuries there were no successful invasions of Britain, no sub- 
stantial introduction of new materials of physical heredity. And 
yet Franz Boas rightly contrasts “the boisterous joy of Ufe of 
Elizabethan England and the prudery of the Victorian age; the 
transition from the rationalism of the eighteenth century to the 
romanticism of the beginning of the nineteenth century.” In 
Americto Indian tribes where the percentage of mixed bloods is 
still trifling, the personality types most frequently encountered 
to-day are not at all those described by writers at the time of the 
original contact with wliite men. Furthermore, it has been 
demonstrated again and again that a child brought up in a foreign 
society acquires the ways of life and the characteristic personaUty 
traits of the foreign ‘race.’ If pigmentation or other physical 
differences are obvious these may create special problems for him 
in his new social group, but where these are not conspicuous he 
fits in as well as the native-born. 

However, this argument must not be made to explain too much. 
Over-emphasis upon social conditioning is just as harmful and 
one-sided as making a magic key of biology. Notliing can be 
more certain than that any individual’s physical characteristics 
resemble those of his relatives more than those of a random sample 



of the population at large — and obviously this resemblance cannot 
be due to training or to imitation. Good predictions can be made 
as to what proportion of the descendants of an original couple 
will manifest a certain physical peculiarity of the parents — pro- 
vided the number involved is large. Anyone’s temperamental and 
intellectual traits are partially determined by the genes suppUed 
by liis ancestors, but it is definitely established that these are not 
the only influences of importance. 

As usual, however, the generalization of a scientific theory is too 
simply conceived and explains too much. The fact that simple 
questions can be put does not mean that there are simple answers. 
To say that physical heredity is enormously important in under- 
standing the appearance and behaviour of human beings is one 
thing. But it is quite another to jump from this correct statement 
to the implications: {a) that biological inheritance is the only 
important factor and (h) that one may pass easily from talking 
about the hereditary equipment of individuals to that of groups. 
^ Superficially, biology might seem to give scientific support to 
racist theories. 1 If physical heredity admittedly sets limits to the 
potentiahties or individuals, “isn’t it just common sense to believe 
that the peculiarities of various groups of individuals are the 
consequence of their genetic equipment?” The thinking, often 
completely sincere, of those who follow this line of reasoning is 
weakened by a number of major errors, ^^hey forget that race 
is strictly a biological concept; they erroneously transfer what is 
known about individual inheritance to group inheritance; they 
greatly underestimate biological complexities and their inter- 
actions with non-biological processes; they overestimate present 
knowledge of the mechanisms of inheritance. 

1 To classify human beings as a race on other than a purely bio- 
logical basis destroys the proper meaning of the term and removes 
even the support provided by the one-sided biological argument. 
‘Aryan’ is a linguistic designation. Hence ‘the Aryan race’ is a 
contradiction in terms. As Max Muller remarked long ago, it 
makes about as much sense as a “ brachy cephalic dictionary” or a 
“doHcocephahc grammar.” Unless there were grounds for 
believing — which there most certainly are not — that all individuals 

race: a modern myth 


who speak ‘Aryan’ (Indo-European) languages are descendants of 
the same ancestors, there could be no justification for confusing 
linguistic and biological classifications.! Similarly, nationality and 
‘race’ must not be confused. |To speak of ‘the Italian race’ is 
nonsense, for there is every reason to assume that the Italians of 
Piedmont share more ancestors with persons who are French or 
Swiss than they do with their fellow Italians of Sicily. ‘The 
Jewish race’ is equally a misnomer because there is great diversity 
in physical type among those who practise or whose parents or 
grandparents have practised the Jewish religion, and because the 
physical stereotype which is popularly considered Jewish is actually 
common among all sorts of Levantine and Near Eastern peoples 
who are not and have never been Jewish in rehgion or in other 
aspects of culture. i 

Jews have mixed so much with the varying physical types I 
the different countries in which they have lived that by no single 
physical or physiological feature nor by any group of such features 
can they be distinguished as a race.\ Huntington regards them as a 
kith, like the Icelanders, the Parsis, and die Puritans. That some 
Jews can be identified on sight is due less to physically inherited 
traits, than, as Jacobs says, to “those emotional and other reactions 
and conditionings which take the form of distinctive facial 
behavior, bodily posturings and mannerisms, sentence tone, and 
temperamental and character peculiarity” wliich can be traced to 
Jewish customs and to the treatment of Jews at the hands of 

In the light of the biological preoccupation of our recent think- 
ing die naive view diat there must be a connexion between physical 
type and character type is understandable. The ‘personaHty’ of 
the poodle is different from that of the police dog. The tempera- 
ment of the Percheron is different from that of the Arabian 

Men are animals. But man is a very special kind of animal, and 
the tranrfer of observations from non-himians to humans dare 
not be made so glibly. In the first place, non-human animals 
derive their character and personality mainly from their physical 
heredity, though domestic animals are also influenced by training. 



While animals leam from experience, they learn hardly more 
than crude survival techniques from each other. The factor 
of social heredity is unimportant. A diving bird brought up in 
complete isolation from all other birds of its species will still dive 
hke its ancestors Avhen released near a body of water. A Chinese 
boy, however, brought up in an English-speaking American 
household, will speak English and be as awkward at using chop- 
sticks as any other American. 

And so, though the fact that non-human animals of similar 
physical appearance behave in about the same way is correctly 
interpreted as due mainly to their genetic relationship, the matter 
is not so simple when it comes to the human animal. The existence 
of physical stereotypes for human groups that live in the same 
^ea or speak the same language or practise the same religion is 
JRrobably to be traced to the preconception that organisms that 
resemble each other in action ought to resemble each other in 
physique. In any such group there are large numbers of indi- 
viduals who are closely related biologically and who approximate 
a certain physical norm. The lay observer focuses liis attention 
on these similar persons and either fails even to notice the others 
or dismisses them as exceptions. We thus get the persistent 
stereotype of the Swede as blond and blue-eyed. Dark Swedes 
are commented upon with surprise, though, in fact, blond indi- 
viduals are distinctly in a minority in a number of districts in 

Among non-human animals resemblance in physical appear- 
ance is a fair basis for assuming close relationship. If two dogs 
who look hke pure dachshunds breed, we are amazed if any of 
the puppies look Hke fox terriers, pohee dogs, or Airedales. But 
if a man and a woman whom ten competent physical anthro- 
pologists classify as ‘pure Mediterranean’ marry, their ten children 
may approach in varying degrees the Mediterranean, Alpine, and 
Atlanto-Mediterranean types. 

Wild animals ordinarily breed only with others of the same 
type. The lines of most domestic animals arc kept pure by human 
control of breeding. There are exceptions, such as mongrel dogs. 
But virtually all human beings are mongrels! For countless 

race: a modern myth 


thousands of years human beings have been 'wandering over the 
surface of the globe, mating with whomever opportunity 
afforded or fancy dictated. 

The significance of physical heredity m family lines is not to be 
minimized. But heredity acts only in lines of direct descent, and 
there is no full unity of descent in any of the existing races. The 
observable physical types, just as the varieties of non-human 
animals, arose mainly as a consequence of geographic isolation. 
Physical differences which characterize all animal races are in 
large measure the product of chance samplings which took place 
at the time ancestral groups separated, plus accumulated varia- 
tions that have occurred since the groups became isolated, plus 
certain inherent trends. 

It should not be forgotten, furthermore, that we know much 
less about the details of human heredity than about animal here- 
dity. This is due partly to the greater complexities involved, and 
partly to the fact that we do not experiment with human beings. 
Also, men mature so slowly that the statistics of ordinary matings 
do not accumulate as rapidly as those of laboratory animals. 
Since the beginnings of recorded history in Egypt there have been 
only two hundred human generations, while the mouse has had 
twenty-four thousand. 

One difference between humans and non-humans is the fact of 
preferential mating. In some societies one is expected to marry 
one’s maternal first cousin; in others one may not marry so close 
a relative. But the important difference is that animal races 
tended to remain in geographical isolation, and did not interbreed 
with other races of the same species. With humans, however, 
continual intermixture, often among the most diverse types, has 
been the rule in history’s broad perspective. Looking at particu- 
lar societies within the framew^ork of a narrower time span, one 
can indeed point to populations isolated on islands, in inaccessible 
valleys, or infertile deserts where inbreeding in a relatively small 
group has prevailed over some hundreds of years. The same has 
been true for royal families and other special groups. Lorenz has 
shown that in twelve generations the last German emperor had 
only 533 actual ancestors as compared with a theoretical 4096. 



Undoubtedly there are local physical types. This is true not 
only of populations of small islands and of peasant groups. 
Hooton’s studies of American criminals have revealed the existence 
of fairly well differentiated regional types in the United States. 
In such instances relative genetic homogeneity and stability have 
been attained. This, however, is recent. A longer time-perspec- 
tive shows that such homogeneity is based upon an underlying 
heterogeneity. If one compared the number of different ancestors 
such groups had during the past ten thousand years with the 
number of different ancestors of a horde of South American 
monkeys or of African zebras during the same period, the human 
population would prove to have drawn from a significantly larger 
number of genetic lines. In any case the total of such recently 
isolated and inbreeding populations is small. Throughout Europe, 
the Americas, Africa, and Asia, constant formation of new and 
largely unstable blends has been the keynote of the past thousand 
years. This means that the diversity of genetic strains in even a 
superficially similar population is great. It means also that out- 
ward resemblance in two or more individuals is not necessarily 
indicative of common descent, for the similarities may be the 
product of chance combinations of characters derived from an 
altogether different set of ancestors. Practically no one can even 
name all of his ancestors for seven generations. If we except 
connexion through the dynastic line of Charlemagne, there is 
probably not a single European family, save the Byzantine 
Palaeologues and Spanish Jews such as the de Solas, that has a 
bona fide pedigree going back before a.d. 8oo even in the name 

Europeans or Americans who can place those ancestors from 
whom they take their family names are all too Hkely to under- 
estimate ludicrously the mixed nature of their ancestry. They feel 
that the statement, “Oh, we come of English stock” is an ade- 

3 uate description of ‘racial affiHation.’ If pressed, they will admit 
lat the recent population of England represents an amalgam of 
physical strains brought in by Stone Age, Bronze Age, Saxon, 
Dane, Norman, and other invaders. But few of us can even 
imagine the tremendous diversity that would be represented by 

race: a modern myth 


the total assemblage of our ancestors, during even the past thou- 
sand years. Charles Darwin was a member of a middle-class 
family. Karl Pearson says of him: 

... we think of his mind as a typical English mind, working in a 
typical English manner, yet when we come to study his pedigree we 
seek in vain for ‘purity of race.’ He is descended in four different 
lines from Irish kinglets ; he is descended in as many lines from Scot- 
tish and Pictish Kings. He had Manx blood. He claims descent in 
at least three lines from Alfred the Great, and so links up with 
Anglo-Saxon blood, but he links up also in several lines with Charle- 
magne and the Carlo vingians. He sprang also from the Saxon 
Emperors of Germany, as well as from Barbarossa and the Hohen- 
staufens. He had Norwegian blood and much Norman blood. He 
had descent from the Dukes of Bavaria, of Saxony, of Flanders, the 
Princes of Savoy, and the Kings of Italy. He had the blood in his 
veins of Franks, Alamans, Merovingians, Burgundians, and Longo- 
bards. He sprang in direct descent from the Hun rulers of Hungary 
and the Greek Emperors of Constantinople. If I recollect rightly, 
Ivan the Terrible provided a Russian link. There is probably not 
one of the races of Europe concerned in the folk wanderings which 
has not a share in the ancestry of Charles Darwin. If it has been pos- 
sible in the case of one Englishman of this kind to show in a con- 
siderable number of lines how impure is his race, can we venture to 
assert that if the like knowledge were possible of attainment, we 
could expect greater purity of blood in any of his countrymen? 
What we are able to show may occur by tracing an individual in 
historic times, have we any valid reason for supposing did not occur 
in prehistoric times, wherever physical barriers did not isolate a 
limited section of mankind? 

When I was a student in England I used to be annoyed at 
advertisements in British newspapers: “Americans! Descent 
traced to Edward III, ^100 1 ” I felt this was another evidence of 
the European playing upon the gullibility of my fellow country- 
men. But, if the American could name a single ancestor in an 
English parish registry, the chances were good that his ancestry 
could be traced to Edward III, or to any other Englishman Hving 
at that period who left a number of adult children in a place where 
records were preserved. 



By the laws of chance essentially every person whose ancestry 
is at least half European can include Charlemagne in his ‘family 
tree.’ But he is equally descended from the bandit hanged on the 
hill, from the half-witted serf, and from every other person living 
in A.D. 800 who left as many descendants as did Charlemagne. 
The principal difference between the family of the snob and the 
‘lower-class’ citizen is that the former has the money to pay a 
genealogist to trace or to fake a lineage. The amusing thing about 
those who maintain that “blood will tell” (over the distance of 
eleven centuries) is that they are usually too ignorant to realize 
that a man of 1948 may be able truly to claim Charlemagne as a 
forefather without having any trace of Charlemagne’s ‘blood.’ 
The child gets not all but only a random assortment of the genes 
of the father and mother. A person could have Charlemagne as 
his own great-grandfather and still not have inherited a single one 
of Charlemagne’s genes. Over more than thirty generations the 
betting odds are excellent that few of that fabled emperor’s genes 
exist at all in certain localities where he has many descendants, 
whereas some of them may well constitute part of the genetic 
equipment of practically all peasants in isolated Swiss valleys. 

In Darwin’s time heredity was thought to be a matter of con- 
tinuous aggregates of materials. A new organism’s inheritance 
was the result of blending the total hereditary potential of the 
father with that of the mother. In these terms it made a little 
sense to believe that any descendant of Charlemagne had a portion 
(albeit diluted) of what had made the emperor great. 

But the studies of the famous monk, Gregor Mendel, led to the 
discovery that every child got part and only part of the germ 
plasm of each parent. This meant that the children of the same 
parents (except multiple births formed from a single egg) had a 
different heredity. In fact, geneticists estimate that if a man and 
his wife had thousands of children no two would look exactly 
ahke. This is because the particular heredity which a new organ- 
ism gets from the two genetic lines that are crossing depends upon 
the accidental way in which the two germ cells exchange parts 
of chromosomes. 

From the standpoint of the modem science of heredity (genetics) 

race: a modern myth 


all snobbery that is supposed to be founded upon biological 
heredity from one or a few distant ancestors is essentially absurd. 
We have at present no techniques for determining all the genes 
an individual actually possesses. Human beings reproduce too 
slowly and have too few offspring to make it possible to use the 
methods that have been successfully appHed to estabhshing genetic 
charts for other animals. With men we must go almost entirely 
by the appearance of the organism, if we wish to assign the indi- 
vidual to a race. In non-human animals this gives good results in 
practice. But the human beings of the great peoples and nations 
of the contemporary world have had ancestors of too diverse 
physical strains to make it likely that classifications on the basis of 
similarities in appearance correspond to the true genetic picture. 
Groups of different appearance may have drawn from the same 
pool of ancestors; groups of the same appearance perhaps from 
different pools of ancestors. 

Human populations are too mongrel and too variable to be 
grouped into races as meaningful as animal varieties. A classifica- 
tion on the basis of their genes is not yet possible. The classifica- 
tions by appearance are not consistent. There are almost as many 
different groupings as there are physical anthropologists. The 
difficulties physical anthropologists have in reaching agreement 
on race classification is testimony that the data do not fall neatly 
and nicely into line as they ought to do if they truly represent 
an order in nature. Of course in all biological classifications there 
are some borderline instances and some disagreements among 
specialists as to what the standards for a separate variety, species, 
or genus should be. Among anthropologists one too often gets 
the impression that almost every case is a borderline case; and, 
even when there is agreement as to standards, there is dispute as 
to whether a given individual or group of individuals meet them. 
With some qualifications and exceptions, one may say that, if all 
living people were ranged in a single sequence according to degree 
of resemblance, there would be no sharp breaks in the line but 
rather a continuum where each specimen diflered from the next 
by almost imperceptible variation. 

Classifications made according to different sets of criteria either 



badly overlap or hardly meet at all. A map of world distribution 
of head-form does not fit at all well with one for stature or one 
for skin-colour. In some instances relatively consistent divisions 
can be made on the basis of particular combinations of a few such 
characteristics. The researches of Boas, Shapiro, and others have 
cast doubt on the fixity of these characteristics. German and 
Russian children who suffered from the famines following the 
First World War differed markedly from their parents both in 
stature and in head-form. Over longer time-spans the changes 
are still more startling. For example, one group of ‘Nordics’ 
appears to have become twelve points more round-headed 
between 1200 b.c. and a.d. 1935. 

If the physical characteristics chosen as a basis for racial classifi- 
cation are susceptible of rapid modification under environmental 
pressure, how can the classification be presumed to represent 
ancient genetic divisions? As W. M. Krogman, one of the lead- 
ing American physical anthropologists, has recently written: “A 
race at best is not a clearly defined biogenetic entity; it is now seen 
to have a transitory definition as well. It is plastic, malleable, 
varying with time, with place, and with circumstances.” 

Even if one were willing to waive this problem of the adaptive- 
ness or stability of the standards, the stubborn and irreducible 
fact is that no world-wide system encompassing a multiplicity of 
physical characteristics and taking account both of similarities 
and of dififerences has ever stood the test of criticism in the Ught of 
liistorically known movements of peoples and intermixture be- 
tween tliem. The results given by one set of measurements fail 
to fit the picture obtained from another set. This discrepancy 
might be explained on the ground that the traditional measure- 
ments made by orthodox physical anthropology are hardly chosen 
in accord with the knowledge of growth that recent experimental 
biology has provided. The same thing appHes to divisions on the 
basis of blood-group frequencies (the only criterion widely used 
where the actual genetic mechanisms are well worked out), skin- 
colour, hair-form, and the like. Racial researches founded upon 
blood-group data were unpopular in Germany, largely, one may 
suspect, because such studies showed that some parts of Germany 

race: a modern myth 


had frequency distributions almost identical with parts of Negro 

It is the large number of genes and the fact that they arc for the 
most part transmitted independently which explains the incon- 
sistency of the sub-groupings of mankind. Such a superficial 
characteristic as the difference in skin-colour between Europeans 
seems to be due to rather few genes, but R. A. Fisher’s statistical 
analysis of data collected by Karl Pearson indicates that skeletal 
differences are due to a large number of genes. If the various 
genes responsible for a particular set of observable characteristics 
stuck together, popular theories about race would be more nearly 
true. If human genes behaved like the genes of the common snail, 
whose offspring usually get all or none of the different genes that 
determine a particular shell pattern, there would be a solid measure 
of stability and predictability in human physical types. But even 
where linkage of genes docs occur this endures for only a few 
generations in a human population. After a number of genera- 
tions of breeding at random the linked genes have a chance 
distribution within the group. 

One objection may be raised to the argument thus far, and it 
must be met. Some critics will say, “There is something in your 
point of view in so far as European races and other small racial 
sub-divisions arc concerned. But your criticisms arc entirely in- 
applicable to the major racial stocks : Negro, white, and Mongo- 
loid.” It is true that the term ‘race’ has been used in scientific 
discourse to apply to entities that arc not strictly comparable. 
When applied to a small population, long isolated (the aboriginal 
Tasmanians, for example), the word may have a meaning almost 
comparable to that which it has when applied to non-human 
animals. If a small group has inbred long enough to attain 
genetic stabiHty and homogeneity, one can speak of group as well 
as individual heredity. If one knows the hereditary characters of 
the group as a whole, useful predictions can be made about the 
genetic equipment of any individual in the group. However, 
such groups are better called ‘breeds’ to avoid confusion. In any 
case their existence has Httle relevance to the problems of race in 
the contemporary world. 




The second type of entity is that represented by the Nordic, 
Alpine, East Baltic, Mediterranean, and other ‘races’ of Europe 
and by comparable sub-divisions of the other two great stocks. 
These may be described correctly and briefly, in scientific jargon, 
as ‘phenotypic statistical abstractions.’ That is, they are classifica- 
tions based wholly on similarities in appearance where such simi- 
larity is by no means proof of underlying genetic equivalence. As 
Boas and others have demonstrated, the curves of variation for 
two family lines within the same ‘race’ may fail to overlap at all 
for certain features, whereas one of them may closely approximate 
to that of another family line in a completely different race. 

No one has ever seen a ‘Nordic’ who conformed in every 
detail to the type description of Nordics given by various physical 
anthropologists, unless one means the very simple popular formula 
occasionally also given by anthropologists defining a Nordic as 
a blond, blue-eyed, long-headed, narrow-nosed individual. 
‘Nordic’ — as precisely defined by a long Hst of measurements 
and observable characteristics — is an abstraction in the minds of 
the scientists. The ‘Nordic race’ is made up, according to one 
view, of populations that, considered statistically, show average 
or modal distributions wliich tend to fit this ideal picture. Accord- 
ing to another current view, the ‘Nordic race’ is made up of 
individuals who show more Nordic than non-Nordic traits or 
who have an assemblage of physical traits each of wliich, though 
no one of them may fit the type description perfectly, approaches 
the standards set. That is, individuals are selected from a popula- 
tion, and the selected group is called ‘Nordic,’ even though few 
individuals come close to identity with the imaginary type of the 
‘pure Nordic.’ 

Now, of course, physical anthropologists may pick out all the 
individuals in the world who look more or less alike, though there 
will be plenty of disagreements among the anthropologists when it 
comes down to cases. One might also group together all persons 
whose left leg is sUghtly shorter than their right, who have at least 
one mole on the chest, etc. This at least could be done reliably 
and validly. But the tough-minded wiU ask: What good does it 
do, other than keeping some people rather harmlessly employed? 

race: a modern myth 


At most, one may grant a descriptive convenience for some pur- 
poses and the satisfaction of a perhaps not very scientific curiosity. 
As Whitehead has long pointed out, classification is never more 
than a half-way house in science. The classifiers who have dealt 
with such ‘races’ have continued to go their way, serenely un- 
aware of the results of experimental biology and Mendehan 
genetics. Geneticists to-day agree that it is the geographical 
distribution of the genes which needs to be studied. 

Turning to the ‘stocks,’ it must be freely granted that here one 
cannot dismiss racism so easily. While the best physical anthro- 
pologist in the world can’t look at a hundred white individuals 
and say with 70 per cent, correctness that the parents of A were 
Nordic and Alpine, of B both Mediterranean, etc., almost every- 
one can look at the child of a pure white or a pure Negro and 
correctly guess the racial stocks of the two parents. This is a 
fact, and there must be no attempt to explain it away. On the 
other hand, the significance of this fact must not be exaggerated. 
That skin-colour, hair-form, shape of the eye, shape of the lips, 
and other physical features persist in unmistakable form for many 
generations does not prove that the carriers of these variations also 
share mental and emotional capacities that distinguish them equally 
sharply. The number of hereditary trait-potentiahties known to 
differ (between groups, not individuals) is very small. Indeed, 
one anthropologist, M. F. Ashley Montagu, has estimated that 
less than i per cent, of the total number of genes is involved in 
the differentiation between any two existent races. Another, S. L. 
Washburn, expresses that same idea in terms of human evolution 
by saying, “If the time from the divergence of human and ape 
stems to the present be represented by an ordinary pack of fifty- 
two playing-cards placed end to end, all racial differentiation would 
be on less than one-half of the last card.” 

The variations within the three major racial stocks must not be 
minimized. In the popular mind ‘a Negro is a Negro.’ To the 
scientist the matter is not so simple. A prominent geneticist, in 
fact, sees evidence that the differences between two groups of 
African Negroes are greater than the differences between one of 
them and various ‘white’ races. Certainly it is true that for many 



measurements and characters the differences between ‘whites’ and 
‘Negroes’ are less than the range of variation found in either 
stock considered by itself. It is Hkewise true that in crosses 
between whites and the Negroes of South Africa skin-colour is 
often inherited separately from head-shape and a ‘white’ type 
turns up in the hybrids, whereas in the second generation of West 
African-Europcan crosses the European type rarely, if ever, is 

The traditional notion of race is essentially a scholastic one — 
that is, races are regarded as fixed entities that can be sharply 
distinguished on the basis of simple physical variation in hair, eye, 
skin, bodily dimensions, and proportions. But the physical types 
of human groups are not unchanging. Even the genetic constitu- 
tion has been demonstrated to have an orbit of plasticity. The 
dividing lines are far from sharp. Rather, there is a gradual 
merging of all populations of the present day. The biological 
oneness of mankind is far more significant than the relatively 
superficial differences. 

The crucial flaw in the older view of ‘race’ is that it does not 
square with present knowledge of the process of physical heredity. 
If ‘bloods’ mixed as alcohol and water mix, there would be many 
pure ‘races,’ and populations could be correctly described by 
statistical averages. But, with separate and independent genes, a 
child is, in the genetic sense, the cliild of his parents but hardly of 
his ‘race.’ “A race defined as a system of averages or modal 
points,” says Dobzhansky, 

is a concept that belongs to the prc-Mendelian era, when the heredi- 
tary materials were pictured as a continuum subject to a diffuse and 
gradual modification. . . . The idea of a pure race is not even a legiti- 
mate abstraction; it is a subterfuge used to cloak one’s ignorance of 
the phenomenon of racial variation. 

Local variations undoubtedly exist. In colonies of flies living 
only about one hundred metres apart statistically significant racial 
differences have been observed. It is probable that the incidence 
of particular genes is appreciably different in human villages of the 
same population. Broader geographical variations are also likely. 

race: a modern myth 


but until the distribution of human genes has been mapped — z 
task that has barely begun — we must not jump to sweeping con- 
clusions on the basis of a few superficial characteristics that happen 
to have high social-stimulus value. Our present knowledge of 
the genetics of human populations has been obtained by travelling 
in a rowing-boat over a vast sea of ignorance and dropping a 
sounding lead here and there. 

It is one thing to say that sub-groupings of mankind thus far 
proposed are not to be taken too seriously. It would be quite 
anodier to suggest that no meaningful sub-groupings are dis- 
coverable. It is one thing to insist that the evidence we now have 
indicates that the differences between human societies arc not 
primarily traceable to different biological inheritance. It would 
be quite another to imply that varying physical heredity played 
no role of importance. 

Because race prejudice leads to social and intenxational sickness 
there is the temptation to deny without sufficient evidence all 
validity and significance to the concept of race even in the sense 
of ‘breed’ or ‘stock.’ The fact that current popular notions of 
‘race’ are largely mythological and without acceptable scientific 
underpinning should not lead us to throw the baby out with die 
bath. Without question, certain external physical characteristics 
are more frequent among some peoples than among others. If 
this were all, we might let the matter rest by remarking that — so 
far as present scientific knowledge goes — the principal importance 
of the several physical types of mankind is that they do possess 
features which have a high degree of social visibility. The fact 
that human beings react negatively to other human beings must 
not be overlooked. 

However, it is now known that there are at least some differences 
in physiological processes among the major racial stocks. Most 
of these differences arc, to be sure, only differences in frequency 
of occurrence of the characteristic in question and do not represent 
all-or-none variations. For example, the Rh blood factor which 
is connected with a fatal condition at or before birth is far more 
frequent among American whites than among American Negroes 
and hardly occurs at all among the Chinese and Japanese. Never- 



theless it must be emphasized that no ‘blood’ is diagnostic of all 
individuals in any ‘race’ or stock. All of the four main blood 
groups turn up in all ‘races’ and stocks. 

Mental, temperamental, and character traits are almost impos- 
sible to isolate in pure form because from the very day of birth 
the influence of social tradition modifies the biologically inherited 
trends. It is, however, more than possible that the potentiahties 
for such traits are present in different proportions among the 
various human stocks. The distribution of musical and other 
special capacities docs not appear to be equal in all peoples. 
Biological causes are probably involved; and, even though these 
account for only a small fraction of cultural differences, they are 
still true causes. Here also, unhappily, it is easier to say what 
anthropology has found not to be the case than to present 
substantiated positive findings. 

To some degree physical traits and mental quaHties are found 
associated in ordinary experience. This coexistence is probably 
due much more to similarities in life experience and training 
among peoples who share the same colour or other physical traits 
than to biological heredity. There is no evidence whatever that 
the genes which determine skin-colour or hair-form are correlated 
with genes influencing temperament or mental capacity. The 
idea of deducing character from colour is intrinsically absurd. 
The Enghsh setter and the Irish setter have the same tempera- 
ment, though the latter is red-haired and the former white with 
spots. No one thinks of determining tlie temperament of a horse 
by using a colour chart. In a well-mixed population that is more 
or less homogeneous biologically there is no correlation between 
traits due to different genes. As Haldane has pointed out: 

For example, if we consider Central and Northern Europe, we 
find a considerable correlation between hair colour and cranial index. 
As we go north the hair becomes, on the whole, fairer, and the skull 
longer. We find the same correlations in England as a whole. But 
if we take a well-mixed population — say, from an Enghsh rural 
area, a population whose members have been intermarrying for 
many centuries — we find that this correlation disappears. A long- 
headed man is no more likely to have blue eyes than a short-headed. 

race: a modern myth 


It also follows that a man with blue eyes is no more likely to have a 
specially large proportion of Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian ancestors 
than a brown-eyed man in the same village. 

The fragility of popular impressions about ‘racial^ tempera- 
ment is attested by the fluctuation in stereotypes. In 1935 most 
Americans characterized the Japanese as ‘progressive/ ‘intelli- 
gent/ and ‘industrious.’ Seven years later these adjectives had 
given place to ‘sly’ and ‘treacherous.’ When the Chinese were 
wanted as labourers in California they were ‘thrifty/ ‘sober/ and 
‘law-abiding’; whereas, when the Exclusion Act was being 
advocated, they had become ‘filthy,’ ‘loathsome,’ ‘unassimilable,’ 
‘clannish/ and ‘dangerous.’ 

A scientific evaluation of the historical achievements of 
difierent peoples is next to impossible because of lack of agree- 
ment on standards. To many American soldiers the natives of 
India appeared ‘dirty’ and ‘uncivilized.’ But to Hindu intellec- 
tuals Americans seemed incredibly ‘boorish,’ ‘materiahstic,’ ‘un- 
intellcctual,’ and equally ‘uncivilized.’ While the not inconsider- 
able cultural creations of Negro Africa are too Httle known to 
Westerners, it is true that the total richness of Negro civilizations 
is at least quantitatively less impressive than that of Western or 
Chinese civflization. However, some facts should not be for- 
gotten. The twelfth-century Negro university at Timbuktu 
compared favourably with contemporary European universities 
— as did the general level of civilization in the three great Negro 
kingdoms of that time. The iron-working which is so important 
a base of our technology may be a Negro creation. In any case, 
the anthropologist thinks it more valid to attribute this quantita- 
tive difference to the geographical isolation of Africa and to his- 
torical accidents. Environmental factors always make it hard to 
estimate the innate capacities of peoples. For example, EngUsh 
writers often speak of the Bengalis of India as ‘naturally intel- 
lectual’ and of the Marathas as ‘natively warlike.’ But the BengaU 
plains are chronically infested with malaria and hookworm, the 
hill s of Maratha comparatively free of these diseases debflitating 
to aggiessive energy. It is fortunate for us that the Romans did 
not decide that our unpromising forefathers, crude barbarians of 



the British and German forests, were incapable of absorbing or 
creating a high civiHzation. 

Whether intelhgence tests measure ‘intelligence’ is an arguable 
question, yet they are the only bases for comparison we have that 
are standardized and possess any pretensions to objectivity. They 
indicate that highly gifted children turn up among all peoples. 
One American Negro, apparently ‘pure-blooded,’ was found to 
have an I.Q. of 200. As for groups, Negro children in Tennessee 
averaged 58, those in Los Angeles 105. This range shows that 
Intelligence Quotient is not determined mainly by ‘racial’ capa- 
city. In the First World War Negroes from certain Northern 
states who could read and write obtained higher averages on 
Army Alpha tests than did literate whites from certain Southern 
states. Negroes from Ohio and Indiana proved superior to whites 
from Kentucky and Mississippi in both Alpha and Beta tests. 
These and similar figures parallel too closely the relative amounts 
spent on education in various states and with other environmental 
conditions for the correlation to be mere coincidence. In 1935- 
1936 California expended more than 115 dollars per year per 
child. Mississippi spent less than 30 dollars per white cliild and 
about 9 dollars per Negro child. And it has been proved that 
Negro children who move from the South into the North are 
not superior in ‘intelligence,’ as measured by these tests, when 
they first come North. 

The tendency to rate biological groups as inferior or superior to 
one another is due in part to a relic from Darwinian thinking. 
Just as the conceptions of heredity among educated people have 
not yet caught up with the facts and theories of to-day’s genetics, 
so also most of us tend to cling to vague notions about straight- 
ine evolution. We have a propensity for ranking everything in a 
‘scale of evolution,’ usually being careful to put our own group 
at the top of this ‘scale.’ Such thinking lags far behind scientific 

j There is no evidence from the biological point of view that 
* ‘ race ’ mixture is harmful. Some anthropologists assert that crosses 
between ‘races’ are harmless or even beneficial, but that crosses 

race: a modern myth 121 

between the three major stocks are deleterious. However, few 
data support this assertion. Fleming, an English anthropologist, 
discovered dento-facial disharmonies in the progeny of Negro- 
white hybrids crossed with Negro-Chinese and Chinese-European 
hybrids. Even here it is possible that dietary deficiencies modified 
the strictly genetic influence. 

This whole problem is enormously compHcated by social condi- 
tions and attitudes. Almost everywhere matings between persons 
of different stocks are so disapproved that most of them occur in 
the lower economic strata; the parents and their children are 
forced to live as social outcasts. In those few instances (the Pit- 
cairn Islanders, for example) where mixed bloods have had a fair 
chance, they seem by universal judgment to be superior in most 
particulars to either of the parent groups. Even under conditions 
of discrimination, but where malnutrition has not been charac- 
teristic, the hybrids have been better specimens physically : taller, 
longer-lived, more fecund, healthier. 

The phenomenon of ‘hybrid vigour’ appears to be as important 
among humans as among other animals. The record of history 
likewise indicates that mongrel peoples are more creative than 
the more inbred groups. Almost all of the civilizations that 
humanity agrees were most significant (Egypt, Mesopotamia, 
Greece, India, China) arose where divergent peoples met. Not 
only was there cross-fertilization from varying ways of life, but 
there was also interchange of genes between contrasting physical 
strains. It does not seem implausible that this also had its part in 
those great bursts of creative energy. 

Nowhere in the ‘race’ field is mythology more blatant or more 
absurd than in the beliefs and practices relating to ‘miscegena- 
tion.’ The people who are the most convinced that Negroes have 
a special innate psychology are the very ones who will explain 
the abihties of a light-coloured ‘Negro’ by his ‘white blood.’ 
Yet Mendelian genetics tells us that there is no reason to believe 
that such an individual has appreciably fewer genes for ‘Negro 
temperament’ than the darker brothers and sisters in the same 
family. Of course the utter illogicaUty of popular belief is 
reflected by the fact that anyone with a small proportion of 



‘Negro blood’ is always called Negro, whereas it would be just 
as reasonable to call everyone with a small amount of ‘white 
blood’ white. 

While anthropological outlook and anthropological researches 
must be kept open to the possibility that there exist differences 
between human populations that are significant iia terms of capa- 
cities and hmitations, the only scientific conclusion tenable at 
present is ‘not proven.’ Since we are accustomed to associate 
appearance (including costume) with distinct ways of behaving, 
we fall into the error of assuming that the quaUtics of temperament 
and of intelhgence of ‘ Negroes,’ for example, must necessarily, on 
a biological basis, be different from those of ‘whites.’ Our tendency 
is to exaggerate whatever biologically determined differences there 
may be, because of the fact that whites and Negroes, for example, 
have had very different cultural histories and, to-day, different 
opportunities. The general point is wellmade by Boas: 

The same individual does not behave in the same way under 
different cultural conditions and the uniformity of cultural behavior 
observed in every well integrated society camiot be attributed to a 
genetic uniformity of the constituent individuals. It is imposed 
upon them by their social environment notwithstanding their great 
genetic differences. The uniformity of pronunciation in a com- 
munity develops notwithstanding the great anatomical differences 
in the formation of the articulating organs. The appreciation of 
definite forms of graphic and plastic arts, of style of music are his- 
torically developed and shared by all those who participate in the 
cultural life of the group. The claim that there is a definite relation 
between the distribution of bodily build in a group and cultural 
behavior has never been proved. The mere fact that in a group a 
certain type prevails and that the group has a certain culture does 
not prove that these arc causally connected. There are superior and 
inferior individuals, there are individuals of different mental charac- 
teristics, but nobody has ever proved that their cultural behavior is 
stable, independent of social history, and that similar behavior may 
not be found in every one of the large divisions of mankind. 

There are tall individuals and short individuals, and tliis 
difference is undoubtedly conditioned by heredity. The average 
differences in physical characteristics between various human 

race: a modern myth 


populations are, however, small compared to the overlap in the 
range of single features and the duplications of types in different 
races. Study of the variability of measurable characteristics in 
existent races and analysis of the few established genetic facts 
suggest that the same biological strains are represented in all large 
‘racial’ groups, though in varying fashion. There are no un- 
changing pure races, but rather populations whose physical 
characteristics have altered through time under the influence of 
domestication; natural, social, and sexual selection; environmental 
influences; spontaneous variations; inbreeding and out-breeding. 

Gunther (who received the Goethe medal for art and science 
in 1941) tells us that the soul in the Dinaric race appears to be 
dark green. It is easy to recognize absurdities of this extravagance. 
But the subtle distortions of our thinking which arise from Dar- 
winian (pre-Mendelian) conceptions are hard to eradicate. If we 
will think carefully through the impheations of this statement by 
the distinguished Swedish biologist, Dahlberg, we will see clearly 
why — given the facts of human migrations and casual cross- 
breeding, ‘pure races’ arc strictly mythological: 

Before Mendel it was assumed that the inheritable matter is a 
substance and that, in the process of crossing the hereditary sub- 
stances are mixed as when fruit juices and water are mixed. If a 
Negro is crossed with a white man, a simple dilution takes place, and 
the result is a mulatto. Half-bloods are then spoken of. If mulattoes 
are crossed, the result according to the older substance doctrine 
ought to be solely mulattoes, in the same way as, when two glasses 
of fruit juice of the same concentration are mixed one does not 
expect to get any difference in color. As a matter of fact, the crossing 
of mulattoes gives offspring ranging from more or less white to more 
or less black. The result agrees with Mendefs doctrine, according 
to which every individual possesses a mosaic of genes, all of which 
appear in pairs containing one gene from the father and one from 
the mother. In passing on, these genes are reshuffled. Half is dis- 
carded, and when the sperm cell fuses with the egg, a new mosaic is 
set up which may have varying characters. 

In summing up the discussion of race in the proper biological 
sense, the following points stand out. Popular thinking and some 



scientific work need to be brought up to date with Mendelian 
genetics and experimental biology generally, hi an atmosphere 
where biological explanations were popular the tendency has been 
to neglect cultural and environmental factors and to jump to 
over-simple biological conclusions. There is no evidence that 
race mixture is harmful. * There is no scientific basis for an over-all 
rating of races on a superiority-inferiority scale. Certain genes 
are present in different numbers in different human groups; 
however, the variability of all large human populations needs to 
be stressed. 

Elementary geography books still list the white, black, yellow, 
brown, and red races. It is easy — and correct — to point out that 
five pigments and an optical effect (arising from the fact that the 
overlying layers of the skin are not transparent) are responsible 
for the skhi-colour in all humans and that these pigments are 
present in the skins of aU normal men and women (albinos lack a 
dark pigment called melanin). Hence differences in skin-colour 
are due only to the relative amounts of each pigment present, and 
there is continuous range of variation among living human beiiags. 
It is equally easy — and correct — to point out the difficulties 
inherent in the attempt to classify races on other than an arbitrary 
and inconsistent basis if one uses such criteria as head-form, stature, 
or skeletal features. 

Nevertheless, in conclusion, it must be emphasized that valid 
objections to all existent methods of classification do not consti- 
tute proof of the insignificance of racial differences. Let us not 
overlook the depths of our present ignorance on some relevant 
matters. For example, it is commonly said that most of the visible 
external characters used in racial classification are too trifling to 
assist or hinder the perpetuation of races in any way. Yet the 
survival of such differences seems unlikely unless selective factors 
are somehow involved. Weidenreich has recently concluded that 
an increase in brain-size entails certain modifications of the skele- 
ton. In other words, if he is right, bone changes not in themselves 
adaptive still reflect a change that has survival value. Further 
investigation may show that the older physical anthropologists 
used some of the right criteria but gave the wrong reasons for so 

race: a modern myth 


doing and employed objectionable methods. On the other hand, 
it may turn out that the only significant classification must be 
based not on a somewhat random assortment of externals but on 
the relative numbers of somatotypes which represent the confor- 
mation of the whole body and presumably reflect organic dif- 
ferences and physiological functions. Although the similarities 
in human biology among all peoples are enormously important 
for the understanding of human life, there are also strong pre- 
sumptive grounds for believing that the differences are likewise 
of some significance. 

Is there an inborn tendency to withdraw from or be hostile 
towards people of different physical appearance ? The evidence on 
tliis point is somewhat puzzling. On the one hand, one of the 
more remarkable findings of general biology is that of species 
cohesion. In the wild state, organisms which we know, from 
observation of specimens in captivity, can interbreed and have 
fertile offspring commonly do not do so. In nature, more often 
than not, animals avoid or are actively hostile to similar animals 
of different odour or appearance. On the other hand, the vast 
numbers of mulattoes in the United States can hardly be said to 
support this theory. In various lands there appears to have 
developed Httle repugnance to intermixture of groups of markedly 
different physical appearance. The absorption of substantial 
numbers of Negroes in eighteenth-century England, the attitude 
towards Negroes in France, the notable tendency of Portuguese 
and Dutch colonials to intermarry, or the virtually complete 
absorption of the Negro in Mexico (where at one time Negroes 
markedly outnumbered the whites) are all cases in point. In fact, 
as Huxley and Haddon have shown in We Europeans, a good case 
can be made for actual physical attraction between members of 
different human races where marked social bars have not existed. 
Even should an inherent tendency towards hostility be proved, 
this does not mean that such hostility should be accepted as un- 
changeable. Among the Mohammedans in Brazil, and perhaps in 
Soviet Russia, the socially coherent groups are not ‘racially’ 



Present arbitrary racial classifications have exceedingly limited 
scientific utility, and their popular implications make them socially 
dangerous. A hundred years ago such terms were a convenience, 
for in many cases they indicated not only physical type but also 
geographical origin, language, and culture with a fair degree of 
probabihty. To-day with the shiftings of population and social 
changes that have taken place these ‘brand names’ lead more often 
than not to distorted or mistaken predictions. A ‘Negro’ may be 
anything from very black to quite wloite in colour; he may speak 
French, Arabic, English, American, Spanish, or Ashanti; he may 
be a chain-gang labourer or a world-famous chemist; he may be 
illiterate or may write poHshed Arabic or be an American college 
president. Even in strictly biological terms almost every ‘brand’ 
is a ‘blend.’ 

The physical anthropologist finds no basis for ranking ‘races’ 
in relative order of superiority and inferiority.^ Even though the 
scientist finds evaluation untrustworthy. Western society has 
shown itself more than ready to pass unequivocal and harsh 
judgments. j^Racial’ discrimination is, to be sure, only one part 
of the more general problem of social discrimination. . But 
modem man of Western Europe and the United States says, in 
effect, “If races do not exist we must invent them.” As some one 
has said, “In racial categories it is not nature but society that acts 
as judge.” The really important factor in the contemporary scene 
is not the existence of biological ‘races,’ but of what Robert 
Redfield has called “socially supposed races.” It is the association 
of a label with real or imagined biological differences and real cul- 
tural differences that brings about a ‘socially supposed’ race. 
That the biological differences are not always apparent to the 
naked eye is proved by such facts as the Nazis’ finding it necessary 
to compel ‘Jews’ to wear the star of David so that good ‘Aryans’ 
would always know a ‘Jew’ when they saw one. /Other biological 
variations presumed to distinguish ‘races’ are in the realm of pure 
mythology. / For instance, it is said that even octoroons will 
reveal their Negro ‘blood’ through a one-piece nasal cartilage, 
whereas the fact of the matter is that not only all humans but even 
all monkeys and apes have a split cartilage. On the other hand. 

race: a modern myth 


the general public pays no attention whatever to some differences 
that are real enough the relative flatness of the shin bone of 

some populations) because no one but a few anthropologists know 
that they exist. 

During the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries in Europe 
a number of popularizers (notably Gobineau and Chamberlain) 
plucked the zoological idea of race from the tree of learning. By 
grafting it into a highly selective and lurid interpretation of his- 
tory and by vivid writing, tliey won a wide audience for their 
glorifications of ‘Nordics,’ ‘Aryans,’ and ‘Teutons.’ Before the 
Civil War various American apologists for slavery attempted by 
studies of skulls and living types to show that Negroes and whites 
were entirely different sorts of human beings, that Negroes 
indeed were much more closely related to the apes. These Ameri- 
can writings were widely quoted in England, France, and 

None of these men was a scientist, but they managed to convey 
that their fantasies had scientific warrant. Somehow a mixture of 
historical, economic, and intellectual circumstances had created an 
atmosphere favourable to the acceptance of these speculations, 
even in academic circles. The nineteenth century was the classic 
age of ‘race’ making. ^Darwinian biology supported the assump- 
tion that there were some original races entirely blond and blue- 
eyed, others entirely dark-haired and dark-eyed. It is curious that 
a myth of an original red-haired ‘race’ was nof created, although 
there are large numbers of red-haired individuals among such 
peoples as the Irish, Scots, Jews, and Malays. ^ 

After the end of the First World War, pseudo-scientific racism 
was systematically used for political demagogry. Madison 
Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race and Lothrop/ Stoddard’s 
Rising Tide of Color were much invoked in connexion with exclu- 
sionist legislation on immigration into the United States. These 
works were later quoted at length in Nazi writings. The data 
from ‘intelligence tests’ given to American soldiers were distorted 
and misinterpreted to give the semblance of documentation to 
prejudice against Negro and foreign-bom Americans. 

In the recent twentieth-century, as poUtical and economic 



pressures became more intense in various parts of the world, the 
basic psychological workings of ‘ race hatred ’ became clearer. Race 
prejudice is, fundamentally, merely one form of ‘scapegoatism.' 
When the security of individuals or the cohesion of a group is 
threatened scapegoats are almost always sought and found. They 
may be either other individuals within the group or they may be 
an outside group. The first phenomenon may be observed alike 
in the chicken-yard and in any human society. The second 
phenomenon seems to be the principal psychological basis for 
modern wars. This question of ‘what to do about hate satis- 
faction’ faces every social order. This is the basic psychological 
process. Whether victims are defined as ‘witches’ or as ‘un- 
believers ’ or as ‘members of superior races’ depends upon circum- 
stances and upon the types of rationalization that are fashionable 
at a given moment. 

People who look different make easily identifiable objects of 
aggression. Moreover, if a speciously plausible ‘scientific’ theory 
is at hand to show that this group is inherently inferior or evil, 
then one can have all the fun of venting one’s spite against them 
without feeling guilty about it. Usually, however, a ‘safe-goat’ 
and not a ‘scape-lion’ is chosen. The weak seem to invite attack 
from some people, perhaps from most people who are themselves 
discontented. A minority group or a powerless, subdued majority 
are the usual mass victims of social aggression. If conflict between 
different ‘races’ is presumed to be in the nature of things, then the 
good citizen who otherwise pays considerable deference to the 
sentiment of fair play need not have a troubled conscience. As 
Goethe said, we never feel so free from blame as when we expatiate 
on our own faults in other people. 

In simple societies hostility is ordinarily directed against indi- 
viduals who play specific roles: one’s wife’s relatives, medicine- 
men, sorcerers, chiefs. In complex societies Hke ours many types 
of group conflict are observed. People acquire patterned dis- 
likes of persons they have never seen, and these hates are not justi- 
fied on the ground that all doctors are bad or all poHtical leaders 
are untrustworthy, but on the basis of membership in a group 
apart. Such stereotyped prejudices, of which race prejudice is 

race: a modern myth 


only one, tend to be more intense in areas — such as recently 
industrialized sections — ^where social integration is low. 

Economic conditions are stimulants to, rather than causes of, 
race prejudice. Aversion is not very active unless there is a real 
or imagined conflict of interests. ‘Race’ relations may begin as 
economic problems, but become social and cultural problems as 
soon as the minority attains awareness of the values of the 
dominant group and develops articulate leaders. In American 
society where great emphasis is placed upon success, but where 
many individuals fail to achieve it, the temptation to blame an 
‘out-group’ for one’s own failure ‘to measure up’ is especially 
strong. One survey showed that 38 per cent, of those dissatisfied 
with their economic position also manifested anti-Semitism, 
whereas only 16 per cent, of these in the same group who were 
content with their economic status expressed such views. 

Americans like to personalize. It is psychologically more 
satisfying to blame ‘Wall Street operators’ than ‘the laws of 
supply and demand,’ ‘Stalin’s clique’ than ‘Communist ideology.’ 
Americans feel that they understand labour problems much 
better when a John L. Lewis can be singled out. This widespread 
tendency helps us to understand the persecution of scapegoats 
selected along the lines of supposed biological descent. American 
society is highly competitive, and many individuals fail in the 
struggle. Economic security is very precarious, quite apart from 
individuahzed competition. Actually in a highly organized world 
economic structure most of us are more or less at the mercy of 
impersonal forces or at least of the decisions of individuals we 
never see and whom we cannot reach. Given a personaUzing 
psychology, we feel better if we can identify definite persons as 
our enemies. A ‘racial’ group can all too easily be identified as 
our opponents. There is almost always a grain of truth in the 
vicious stereotypes that are created, and this helps us swallow the 
major portion of untruth — because we must in order to find a 
partial escape from confusion. 

The frustrations of modem life are sufficient to breed any 
number of latent and unconscious prejudices. In the larger sense 
these arc even more threatening than any open manifestations 




that have yet occurred. For ‘race’ prejudice is not isolated- -it is 
part of a chain of tendencies. Many studies have shown that those 
individuals who have the most pronounced hatreds against 
Negroes and Jews are ordinarily those who are also strongest in 
their antipathies against labour, against ‘foreigners,’ against ill 
types of social change, however needful. A Fortune poll in 194; 
showed that “the percentage of anti-Semites is substantially 
above or below 8-8 in only three groups: the extremely anti- 
British (20-8 per cent.), the rich (13 *5 per cent.), and Negroes (2*3 
per cent.).” These facts are intuitively realized and exploited to 
the fullest by politicians, many of whom have a vested interest 
in the perpetuation of cleavages. 

Bigotry directed against any segment of the population may set 
off a powder chain leading to suppression of the traditional 
hberties of the English-speaking peoples or to utter social dis- 
organization. This is the internal threat. The external one is at 
least as serious. We must never forget that four-fifths of the 
population of the earth consists of coloured peoples. In a world 
in which the barriers imposed by distance have almost disap- 
peared we cannot ignore the coloured peoples. Nor, assuredly, 
can we expect to continue to treat them as subordinate. We must 
learn to get along with them. This demands mutual respect. It 
does not mean pretending that differences do not exist. It does 
mean recognizing differences without fearing, hating, or despising 
them. It means not exaggerating differences at the expense of 
similarities. It means understanding the true causes of the dif- 
ferences. It means valuing these differences as adding to the rich- 
ness and variety of the world. Mere acquaintance does not, 
unfortunately, always bring friendship. Antagonism was of 
merely academic interest as long as differing peoples did not need 
to have relations with one another, but under contemporary 
conditions the issue is vitally practical. 

This is a social disease for which there is no panacea. As 
Ronald Lippit says: “It is now easier to smash an atom than to 
break prejudice.” Not very much can be accomplished through 
new legislation or even through better enforcement of existing 
laws, for laws are only as effective as the conviction of the 

race: a modern myth 


majority of citizens that they are right and necessary. More can 
be done by changing the conditions which create race prejudice 
than by a frontal attack. 

All types of conflict feed on fear. Freedom from fear is the 
best way to cure race prejudice. This means freedom from the 
fear of war, from the fear of economic insecurity, from the fear 
of personal loneliness, from the fear of loss of individual prestige. 
Until there is world order, until there is a greater measure of 
personal security, until, perhaps, the texture of American life is 
less tensely competitive, the race question will be with us. As 
Rosenzweig has written: 

Just as the body in its resistance to infectious disease adopts non- 
disruptive protective reactions as long as possible but eventually 
resorts to defense reactions which, as symptoms of the illness, 
seriously interfere with the patient’s normal behavior; so when 
psychologcal constancy cannot be achieved in more adequate ways, 
less adequate ones are inevitably adopted. 

But this does not mean that notliing useful can be done in the 
meantime. We should first of all remember that in so far as we 
aid in the solution of these larger problems we are also helping to 
hquidate the ‘race’ issue. Secondly, to the extent that individual 
citizens will take full responsibiUty for their pubhc and private 
acts, many small improvements can be achieved in many different 
situations bearing directly on ‘ race’ problems. Such improvements 
can have a tremendous cumulative effect. Within the United 
States some genuine gains have been achieved within the last 
fifteen years. Even five years ago there were only four Negroes 
on the faculties of northern non-Negro colleges; to-day there are 

We can treat people as people rather than as representatives of 
‘racial’ groups. We can show our friends how absurd it is to 
think of whole groups as ‘all bad’ or ‘all good.’ We can dis- 
credit the sadists in our own circle of acquaintances. We can ridi- 
cule and deflate demagogues and rabble-rousers. We can 
circulate jokes which bring out the virtues of fair play and 
tolerance at the expense of Jew-baiters, for example. We can 
do our part to see to it that newspapers and the radio represent 



minority groups as enjoying public support rather than as weak 
and isolated. In our own tik we can emphasize the facts of 
assimilation and adjustment to American life of minority groups 
as much as the facts of difference. We can insist that our leaders 
express their disapproval of attempts of the unscrupulous, whether 
in government, industry, or labour, to turn the hatred of citizens 
from their real enemies to innocent scapegoats. We can raise 
children who are more secure and free, so that they do not have 
an inner need to hurt and to attack. We can increase our own 
self-understanding, winning greater freedom and a higher degree 
of responsible behaviour as we gain deeper insight into our own 
motives. We can demand a calm and peaceful working out of 
the conflicts between groups. We can rouse our fellow citizens 
of goodwill from complacency and apathy. We can play upon 
American pride in diversity and strengthen loyalty to the totality 
of our heterogeneous society. Almost all Americans are, after all, 
descended from minority groups abroad. 

We can Hkewise act against hasty and ill-considered emotional 
action which is hkely to worsen a situation. While insisting that 
there are moral issues which are the concern of all American 
citizens, we can remind our too impassioned friends of the im- 
portant variations in local conditions and of the need to speak 
and act in terms that are locally relevant. Every community tends 
to resent outside interference, and change will be less disturbing 
and more permanent if it grows from within and is promoted by 
natural leaders of the community. 

Minorities also have their prejudices, of course, so it is no simple 
matter of the majority adopting the ‘right attitude.’ Members of 
less privileged groups tend to use their disadvantaged status as a 
cover for inferiority feelings arising out of their experience as 
individuals. They will themselves behave unfairly towards groups 
still lower in the power structure. Behaviour within a minority 
must always be related also to the wall of prejudice which sur- 
rounds them. The frequency of crime and bloodshed among 
Negro Americans, for example, must be understood in part as a 
result of frustration at being unable to express hostiHty towards 
whites and as a consequence of white tolerance towards crimes 

race: a modern myth 


that do not infringe on white privileges. This fits beautifully 
with the white stereotype that attributes ‘animal passions’ to the 
Negro — even though in the same breath insisting that Negroes 
are ‘happy-go-lucky’ and like to be submissive to whites. Group 
prejudice is complex in many other ways. The same individuals 
will act without prejudice in one situation and with great antagon- 
ism in another. Attitudes are not the same towards all minority 
groups. Jews, in general, are punished because they refuse to be 
assimilated, Negroes because they want to be. Many Americans 
do not like Jews at all, but they like Negroes ‘in their place.’ 
Tolerance and sympathy flow and recoil with local and national 
economic conditions and with the international situation. Ameri- 
cans have had to face a more serious problem during the past 
thirty years because, as has been remarked, “The safety valve of 
the frontier is no longer an appreciable protection against the 
mounting pressure within the turbulent melting-pot.” 

The anthropologist in his professional capacity can and has 
helped in many ways. Working for Mayors’ Committees and 
similar organizations in American cities where tensions have been 
acute, anthropologists have made surveys of potential trouble 
spots and predicted where flare-ups were likely, so that social- 
service agencies and law-and-ordcr organizations were more ade- 
quately prepared. As speciahsts in the customs of different peoples, 
the anthropologists have also been able to make practical sugges- 
tions for smoothing out temporary situations by pointing out 
symbols of discontent that are not immediately obvious and by 
suggesting the right words to use in reconciliation. As students 
of social organization, they have discovered who were the real 
leaders of conflicting groups. In industry they have performed 
similar services and have given practical advice on which minori- 
ties will, and which will not, work together peaceably. 

In addition to smoothing out difficulties, anthropologists have 
acted as advisers to many projects for the long-term improvement 
of ‘race’ relations. Besides assisting in the appHcation of know- 
ledge now available about these problems, they have Hkewise 
called attention to dangers in carrying out these projects not 
apparent at the common-sense level. For example, talking too 



loudly about the sufferings of disadvantaged groups is a two- 
edged sword. The sympathies of the kindhearted may be aroused, 
but the antagonisms of the aggressors may also be activated the 
more strongly — the ‘boomerang effect/ Also, a programme on 
behalf of one group may simply have the effect of deflecting the 
hostility towards another group. One outlet is blocked but a 
substitute that is socially as bad or worse is found. 

As part of the long-term job, anthropologists have been active 
in education in the broadest sense: nursery-school programmes; 
pubhc meetings; adult education; preparation of radio pro- 
grammes and newspaper articles; writing, checking, and revision 
of public-school textbooks; planning cartoons and other graphic 
materials; preparing musemn exhibits and books for children and 
adults. The University of Chicago Department of Anthro- 
pology directed a vigorous programme of lectures and discussions 
in the high schools of Kansas City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and 
other cities. 

The anthropologist realizes that erroneous theories of ‘race’ 
and racism are both cause and effect of ‘racial’ discrimination. 
Just as political expediency led the Nazis to proclaim the doctrine 
that the Japanese were, after all, ‘yellow Aryans,’ so in the heat 
of the war amazing popular theories of the ‘racial’ origins of the 
Japanese were developed in America. Though the loyal and 
vaUant deeds of countless Japanese-American soldiers were even 
then giving the He to such ridiculous extravagances, no amount of 
scientific evidence would in 1942 have convinced many Ameri- 
cans that a United States Senator was not speaking sober truth 
when he declaimed: 

I do not believe that there stands upon the free soil of the United 
States of America one single solitary Jap, one single solitary person 
with Japanese blood in his veins, but what there stands a man who 
will stab you in the back. Show me a Jap, and I will show you a 
person full of treachery and deception. 

Nevertheless the anthropologist, while labouring under no 
delusions as to the power of the purely rational, beheves that the 
dissemination of the cold facts about ‘race’ can play a useful and 

race: a modern myth 


important part in resolving the problem. As the physical anthro- 
pologist, Harry Shapiro, has written: 

Science has another duty beyond the impassioned and objective 
search for truth. It has also the responsibility of keeping the truth 
inviolate and uncorrupted. On some occasions this assumes the 
form of revealing the underlying insecurity of popular as well as 
scientific speculation. 




Our misapprehension of the nature of language has occasioned a 
greater waste of time, and effort, and genius, tlian all the otlier mistakes 
and delusions with which humanity has been afflicted. It has retarded 
immeasurably our physical knowledge of every kind, and vitiated 
what it could not retard. 

A. B. Johnson, Treatise on Language 

It’s a pity that so few of us have lived down our cliildhood 
struggles with grammar. We have been made to suffer so much 
from memorizing rules by rote and from approaching language 
in a mechanical, unimaginative way that we tend to think of 
grammar as the most inhuman of studies. Probably Americans, 
who dramatize themselves and their independence, have a kind of 
unconscious resentment against all patterns that are so set as to 
constitute a gratuitous insult to the principle of freewill. For 
whatever reasons, Americans have been characteristically inept at 
foreign languages. Like the British, we have expected everybody 
else to learn Enghsh. 

Yet nothing is more human than the speech of an individual or 
of a folk. Human speech, unhke the cry of an animal, does not 
occur as a mere element in a larger response. Only the human 
animal can communicate abstract ideas and converse about condi- 
tions that are contrary to fact. Indeed, the purely conventional 
element in speech is so large that language can be regarded as pure 
culture. A Burmese weaver, moved to Mexico, would know at 
once what a fellow craftsman in Mexico was doing, but would not 
understand one word of the Nahuatl tongue. No clues are so 
helpful as those of language in pointing to ultimate, unconscious 
psychological attitudes. Moreover, much of the friction which 




arises between groups and between nations comes about because 
in both the literal and the slangy senses they don’t speak the same 

We live in an environment which is largely verbal, in the sense 
that we spend the most of our waking hours uttering words or 
responding actively or passively to the words of others. We talk 
to ourselves. We talk to our families and friends — partly to com- 
municate to them and to persuade them, partly just to express 
ourselves. We read newspapers, magazines, books, and other 
written matter. We Usten to the radio, to sermons, lectures, and 
films. As Edward Sapir says: 

Language completely interpenetrates direct experience. For most 
persons every experience, real or potential, is saturated with verbal- 
ism. This perhaps explains why so many nature lovers do not feel 
that they are truly in touch with nature until they have mastered 
the names of a great many flowers and trees, as though the primary 
world of rcaUty were a verbal one, and as though one could not get 
close to nature unless one first mastered the terminology that some- 
how magically expresses it. It is this constant interplay between 
language and experience which removes language from the cold 
status of such purely and simply symbolic systems as mathematical 
symbolism or flag signalling. 

The dictionaries still say that “language is a device for com-s 
municating ideas.” The semanticists and the anthropologists agree 
that this is a tiny, specialized function of speech. Mainly, language 
is an instrument for action. The meaning of a word or phrase is 
not its dictionary equivalent but the difference its utterance brings 
about in a situation. We use words to comfort and cajole our- 
selves in fantasy and day-dream, to let off steam, to goad ourselves 
into one type of activity and to deny ourselves another. We use 
words to promote our own purposes in dealing with others. We 
build up verbal pictures of ourselves and our motives. We coax, 
wheedle, protest, invite, and threaten. Even the most intellectual 
of intellectuals employs only a minute fraction of his total 
utterance in symbohzing and communicating ideas that are 
divorced from emotion and action. The primary social value of 
speech Ues in getting individuals to work more effectively together 



and in easing social tensions. Very often what is said matters 
much less than that something is said. 

To the manipulation of this verbal environment the anthro- 
pologiail linguist has made some immediately practical contri- 
butions. Forced by the absence of written materials and by other 
circumstances attendant upon work with primitives, he has become 
an expert on ‘the direct method.’ He knows how to learn a 
language by using it. Though sensitive to the broader impUca- 
tions of rarer and more subtle forms of a language, he is skilled 
in the socially practical. He knows how to dodge the subjunctive 
when the immediate objective is to get a conversation going. The 
training of the conventional teacher of languages tempts him to 
his besetting sin of preoccupation with the niceties. He loves com- 
plicated rules and even more the exceptions to those rules. This 
is one of the principal reasons that after eight years of instruction 
in French an American can read a French novel with pleasure but 
is terrified to ask street directions in Paris. The anthropologist 
can’t look up the rules in the book. He is hardened to making 
small and large mistakes. His tradition is to break through, to 
concentrate on the essential, to get on with the talk at all 

Since many odd languages were of military significance during 
the Second World War, the anthropological linguist had a chance 
to introduce his method of working directly with the native in- 
formant. He prepared educational materials that brought into 
prominence anthropological short cuts in learning how to speak 
anguages. The results have influenced the traditional methods of 
anguage instruction in the United States. The anthropological 
linguist has also worked out ways of teaching adults who have no 
written language and ways of teaching ilhterates to read and write 
their own tongue. 

Because anthropological linguists have usually been trained as 
ethnologists and have often done general field work, they have 
tended less than other students of language to isolate speech from 
the total hfe of the people. To the anthropologist language is just 
one kind of cultural behaviour with many interesting connexions 
to other aspects of action and thought. Analysis of a vocabulary 



shows the principal emphases of a culture and reflects culture his- 
tory. In Arabic, for example, there are more than six thousand 
different words for camel, its parts, and equipment. The crudity 
and the special local words of the vocabulary of Spanish-speaking 
villages in New Mexico reflect the long isolation of these groups 
from the main stream of Latin culture. The particular archaisms 
used show that the break with the main continuity of the Spanish 
language occurred during the eighteenth century. The fact that 
the Boorabbee Indians of Panama use words like gadsoot (gad- 
zooks), forsoo^ (forsooth), chee-ah (cheer), and mai-api (mayhap) 
suggests a possible connexion with Enghsh buccaneers of Eliza- 
bethan days. 

A great deal is now known about the history of languages, 
especially those languages that have been the great carriers of cul- 
ture: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, and English. Cer- 
tain regularities have been discovered. In contrast to the general 
course of cultural evolution, languages move from the complex 
to the simple. Chinese and Enghsh have to-day lost almost 
all inflections. The uniformities of phonetic change are most 
encouraging to those who believe that there is a discoverable 
order in human events. As Bloomfield has said: 

These correspondences are a matter of historical detail, but their 
significance was overwhelming, since they showed that human 
action, in the mass, is not altogether haphazard, but may proceed 
with regularity even in so unimportant a matter as the maimer of 
pronouncing the individual somids within the flow of speech. 

The phonetic side of language beautifully illustrates both the 
selective nature of culture and the omnipresence of patterning. 
The sound of the ‘p’ in ‘pin’ is uttered with a slight puff of breath 
that is lacking when we sound the ‘p’ in ‘spin.’ Yet the speakers 
of English have entered into an unconscious agreement to treat 
them as the same signals, though they are not acoustically identi- 
cal. It is like the motorist trained to stop at a Hght that is any 
shade of red. If I am investigating an unknown language and 
discover two sounds that are somewhat similar to those repre- 
sented by English ‘b’ and ‘d’ but diifFer in being softly whispered, 



I can immediately predict that sounds in the new language of ‘g’ 
type will conform to the same pattern. 

Language is as consistently non-rational as any aspect of culture. 
We cling stubbornly to functionless capital letters. One may also 
instance our absurd English spelling. ‘Ghiti’ ought to spell ‘fish’ 
— ‘gh’ as in ‘laugh/ ‘ti’ as in ‘ambition.’ In ‘hiccough/ ‘gh’ has 
a ‘p’ sound. ‘Ghoughteighteau’ could be read as ‘potato’ — 
figure it out yourself. We say ‘five houses’ when ‘five house’ 
would be simpler and convey the meaning equally well. 

Small peculiarities of linguistic usage are very revealing. It is 
no accident that French Protestants address the deity with the 
familiar form of the personal pronoun {tn) and Catholics with 
the formal [vous). In all sectors of French society save the old 
aristocracy spouses use tu to each other. But in the Faubourg St 
Germain the duke calls his duchess vous — it being well understood 
between them that he reserves tu for his mistress. 

A whole monograph could well be written on differences in 
the social structure of European nations as exposed by linguistic 
habits relating to the second personal pronoun. In France one 
comes to tutoyer few people after adolescence. This familiarity is 
restricted to immediate relatives and to a few intimate friends of 
childhood. In the German-speaking world, however, a student 
who did not soon come to use the famihar Du with those whom 
he saw frequently would be regarded as stuffy. In the army of 
imperial Austria all officers in the same regiment called each other 
Du regardless of rank. Failure to use the famihar form was equiva- 
lent to a challenge to the duel. In Austria and in other European 
countries the initiation of the familiar usage between adults is 
formalized in a ceremony. There is an embrace and a drink from 
each other’s glasses. In Spain and Italy the introduction of the tu 
relationship in later life is considerably easier than in France but 
less frequent than in Southern Germany and Austria. In Italy 
there is the further complication of a special form of respectful 
address [Lei). Choice of Lei or the more common formal pro- 
noun became a pohtical issue. The Fascist Party forbade the use 
of Lei, In Sweden also passions have been aroused over the 
pronoun ni which is used towards those of lower social status — 


and, in accord with the familiar principle of inverted snobbery,^ 
towards royal personages. Clubs were formed to abolish this 
word. Individuals wore buttons saying, '*1 don’t use ni and I 
hope you don’t cither.” Persons were brought into court for 
using ni towards people who considered themselves the equals 
or superiors of those who derogated them by using ni in address. 
‘‘You are ni to me; I am not ni to you.” 

These are also instances of the intensely emotional symbolism 
of language. During the course of the development of national- 
ism and the romantic movement every tongue was seized upon 
as the tangible manifestation of each culture’s uniqueness. In the 
earlier part of the nineteenth century Magyar nobles spoke Latin 
in the Hungarian Parliament because they could not speak Magyar 
and would not speak German. Magyar, Irish, Lithuanian, and 
other tongues have been revived within the last hundred years 
from the category of practically dead languages. This tendency is 
about as old as written history. In the Bible we learn that the 
Gileadites slew every one at the passages of Jordan who said 
sihboleth instead o( shibboleth. 

Groups within a culture emphasize their unity by a special 
language. Criminals have their own argot. So, indeed, do all the 
professions. One school in England (Winchester) has a language, 
compounded of medieval Latin and the accretions of the slang of 
many generations, that is utterly unintelligible to the uninitiated. 
‘The linguistic community’ is no meaningless phrase. The use of 
speech forms in common implies other things in common. The 
hunting or ‘county’ set in England affects the dropping of final 
‘g’s’ as a badge of their being set apart. Understatement is the 
mark of unshakable psychological security. If a member of the 
English upper classes is a member of the Davis Cup team he says, 
“Yes, I play a httle tennis.” Individuals of many countries pro- 
nounce words in certain ways in order to associate themselves 
with particular social classes. The extent to which an elderly or 
middle-aged Englishman is still identifiable as Harrow or Rugby 

1 Another illustration of the ‘principle of inverted snobbery’: In an American college 
that is small or struggling for prestige, faculty members who are members of Phi Beta 
Kappa would as soon appear on the campus without their trousers as without their keys. 
In old well-established universities, ^>BK keys are worn only by a few older professors. 



— and not as a Yorkshireman nor even as an Oxonian nor as an 
army man — proves the identification of distinctive language with 
social status. You can pretty well place an EngHshman by his tie 
and his accent. Idiomatic turns of speech identify to society at 
large the special positions and roles of its various members. 
CHques and classes unconsciously use this device to prevent 
absorption into the larger group. “He talks Hke one of us’’ is a 
declaration of acceptance. Euphemisms, special terms of endear- 
ment, and slang are class labels. 

The essential aroma of each culture or sub-culture may be 
caught as a fragrance of language. In the Berlin of 1930, when one 
met an acquaintance on the street one bowed and stiffly said, 
“Good day.” hi Vienna one called out, “I have the honour,” to 
a superior; “May God greet thee (you),” to an intimate; or, 
“Your servant,” to a fellow student or fellow aristocrat. That 
gewisse Liebenswtirdigkeit (a certain graciousness) which was the 
hall-mark of Viennese culture came out most clearly and imme- 
diately in certain phrases that were not unknown in Northern and 
Protestant Germany, but were much less frequent in the stuff of 
daily conversation: “Live well,” “the lady mother,” “I kiss the 
hand, noble lady,” and many others. In Austria when the delivery 
boy brought the groceries to the kitchen he said, “May God 
greet thee,” if the maid received them; “Kiss the hand, noble 
lady,” if the mistress were there. 

Although one could press this point of view too far, there is 
something significant in the Usts of words from each European 
language that have become widely current in other languages. 
From EngUsh: gentleman, fair play, week-end, sport. From 
French: liaison, maitresse, cuisine. From Itahan: diva, bravo, bel 
canto. From German: Weltschmerz, Sehnsucht, Weltanschauung, 
Gemutlichkeit. In Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Spaniards, de 
Madariaga has suggested that the words fair play, le droit, and 
el honor are the keys to the respective cultures. Here is a sample 
of his discussion of EngUsh: 

There is deep satisfaction in the thought that English — the lan- 
guage of the man of action — is a monosyllabic language. For the 
man of action, as we know, Uves in the present, and the present is 



an instant with room for no more than one syllabic. Words of 
more than one syllable are sometimes called in EngUsh “dictionary’* 
words, i.e., words for the intellectual, for the bookworm, for the 
crank, almost for the un-English. They arc marvellous, those 
English monosyllables, particularly, of course, those which repre- 
sent acts. Their fidelity to the act which they represent is so perfect 
that one is tempted to think English words are the right and proper 
names which those acts are meant to have, and all other words but 
pitiable failures. How could one improve on splash, smash, ooze, 
shriek, slush, glide, squeak, coo? Who could find anything better 
than hum or buzz or howl or whir? Who could think of anything 
more sloppy than slop ? Is not the word sweet a kiss in itself and what 
could suggest a more peremptory obstacle than stop ? 

Certainly the recurrent turns of phrase, the bromides, of each 
culture and of different time-periods in the same culture are 
illuminating. They embody in capsule form the central strains 
and stresses of the society, major cultural interests, the charac- 
teristic definitions of the situation, the prime motivations. You 
can’t swear effectively in British to an American audience and 
vice versa. The Navaho greeting is “All is well”; the Japanese, 
“There is respectful earliness”; the American, “How do you 
do?” or “How are you getting on?” Each epoch has its stock 
phrases. As Carl Becker has written: 

If we would discover the little backstairs door that for any age 
serves as the secret cntranceway to knowledge, we will do well to 
look for certain unobtrusive words with uncertain meanings that 
are permitted to slip off the tongue or pen without fear and without 
research; words which, having from constant repetition lost their 
metaphorical significance, are unconsciously mistaken for objective 
realities. ... In each age these magic words have their entrances and 
their exits. 

In a way there is nothing very new about semantics. The 
Roman grammarian, Varro, pointed out in a learned treatise that 
he had discovered 228 distinct meanings for the word ‘good.’ His 
basic point was the same as Aldous Huxley’s: “There ought to be 
some way of dry-cleaning and disinfecting words. Love, purity, 
goodness, spirit — a pile of dirty linen waiting for the laundress.” 



We are always bringing together by words things that are 
different and separating verbally things that are, in fact, the same. 
A Christian Scientist refused to take vitamin tablets on the ground 
that they were ‘medicine’; he willingly accepted them when it 
was explained that they were ‘food.’ An insurance company dis- 
covered that behaviour towards ‘gasoline drums’ was ordinarily 
circumspect, that towards ‘empty gasoline drums’ habitually care- 
less. Actually, the ‘ empty’ drums are the more dangerous because 
they contain explosive vapour. 

The semantic problem is almost insoluble because, as John 
Locke said, “So difficult is it to show the various meaning and 
imperfections of words when we have notliing else but words to 
do it by.” This is one of the reasons that a cross-cultural approach 
is imperative. Anyone who has struggled with translation is made 
to realize that there is more to a language than its dictionary. The 
Italian proverb ''traduttore, tradittore'' (the translator is a betrayer) 
is all too correct. I asked a Japanese with a fair knowledge of 
English to translate back from the Japanese that phrase in the new 
Japanese Constitution that represents our “Hfe, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness.” He rendered, “license to commit lustful 
pleasure.” EngHsh to Russian and Russian back to English trans- 
muted a cablegram “Genevieve suspended for prank” into 
“Genevieve hanged for juvenile delinquency.” 

These are obvious crudities. But look at translations into half 
a dozen languages of the same passage in the Old Testament. 
The sheer difference in length will show that translation is not 
just a matter of finding a word in die second language that exactly 
matches a word in the original. Renderings of poetry are especially 
misleading. The best metrical translation of Homer is probably 
the fragment done by Hawtrey. The final two liues of the famous 
“Helen on the wall” passage of the third book in the Iliad goes 
as follows : 

So said she ; but diey long since in earth’s soft arms were reposing 

There in their own dear land, their fadierland, Lacedaemon. 

Hawtrey has caught the musical effect of Greek hexameter about 
as well as it is possible to do in English. But the Greek says 



literally, “but them, on the other hand, the Hfe-giving earth held 
fast.” The original is realistic — Helen’s brothers were dead, and 
that was that. The English is sentimental. 

Once in Paris I say a play called The Weak Sex. I found it 
charmingly risque. A year later in Vienna I took a girl to see a 
German translation of the same play. Though she was no prude, 
I was embarrassed because the play was vulgar if not obscene in 

I think I got my first genuine insight into the nature of language 
when my tutor at Oxford asked me to translate into Greek a few 
pages from an eighteenth-century British rhetorician which con- 
tained the following phrase, “she heaped the utmost virulence of 
her invective upon him.” I struggled with this and finally com- 
mitted the unforgivable sin of looking up each word in an EngHsh- 
Greek dictionary. My tutor glanced at the resultant monstrosity 
and looked up at me with mingled disgust, pity, and amazement. 
“My dear boy,” he said, “don’t you know that the only possible 
way you can render that is deinos aedeitai^ she blamed very 

Really, there are three kinds of translation. There is the literal, 
or word-for-word, variety, which is always distorted except per- 
haps between languages that are very similar in structure and 
vocabulary. Second, there is the official type, where certain con- 
ventions as to idiomatic equivalents are respected. The third, or 
psychological, type of translation, where the words produce 
approximately the same effects in the speakers of the second 
language as they did in those of the original, is next to impossible. 
At best, the rendering must be extremely free, with elaborate 
circumlocutions and explanations. I once heard Einstein make a 
shp of the tongue that stated the deeper truth. He said, “I shall 
speak in English this evening, but if I get excited during the dis- 
cussion I shall break into German, and Professor Lin deman will 
traduce me.” 

If words referred only to things translation would be relatively 
simple. But they refer also to relations between things and the 
subjective as well as the objective aspects of these relationships. 
In different tongues relationships are variously conceived. The 



Balinese word tis means not to be cold when it is cold. The 
Balinese word paling designates the state of a trance or drunken- 
ness or a condition of not knowing where you are, what day it is, 
where the centre of the island is, the caste of the person to whom 
you are talking. The subjective aspects arise from the fact that 
we use words not only to express things and relationships but to 
express ourselves ; words refer not only to events but to the atti- 
tudes of the speakers towards those events. 

The words ‘prostitute’ and ‘whore’ have exactly the same 
denotation. The connotation, however, is very different. And 
a word’s connotation is at least as important as the denotation in 
rousing feeling and producing action. Examine carefully the 
richest field of modem verbal magic — advertisements. 

The same words often don’t mean the same thing to different 
generations within the same culture, Margaret Mead writes : 

Take the word job. To the parents a Job was something you got 
when you finished school — the next step, a little grim, a little 
exciting, the end of carefree school days. A job was something you 
were going to get, bound to get, something that waited for you at 
the end of school, just as certainly as autumn follows summer. But 
job — to those born in 1914, 1915? Something that you might never 
get, something to be longed for and prayed for, to starve for and steal 
for, almost — a job. There weren’t any. When these two genera- 
tions talk together and the word job is used, how will they under- 
stand each other? Suppose the issue is the draft — “ A shame a fellow 
has to give up his job.” To the elders this is arrant unpatriotic selfish- 
ness. To the young it is obvious sense. They find it strange that 
older people can see the sacrifice involved when married men with 
children must leave their families to go away in the defense service. 
Yet these same people don’t see that any one should mind leaving a 
job. “Don’t they know what a job means now, in the thinking of 
those born in 1915, 1916, 1917? Don’t they know that just as 
among the ancients one was not a man until one had begotten a 
male child, so today one can’t think of one’s self as a full human 
being, without a job? We didn’t say a guy wouldn’t go because he 
had a job. We just said it was tough on him. We weren’t saying 
anything they wouldn’t say themselves about a man with kids. But 
gee — how they blew up ! ” 



The British and the Americans are still under the delusion that 
they speak the same language. With some quahfications this is 
true as far as denotations arc concerned, though there are concepts 
like ‘sissy’ in American for which there are no precise English 
equivalents. Comiotations, however, arc often importantly dif- 
ferent, and tlois makes for the more misunderstanding because 
both languages are still called ‘English’ (treating alike by words 
things that are different). An excellent illustration is again sup- 
plied by Margaret Mead: 

... in Britain, the word “compromise” is a good word, and one 
may speak approvingly of any arrangement whicli has been a com- 
promise, including, very often, one in which the other side has 
gained more than fifty per cent, of the points at issue. On the other 
hand, in the United States, the minority position is still the position 
from which everyone speaks: the President versus Congress, Con- 
gress versus the President, the State government versus the metro- 
polis and the metropolis versus the State government. This is 
congruent with the American doctrine of checks and balances, but 
it does not permit the word “compromise” to gain the same ethical 
halo which it has in Britain. Where, in Britain, to compromise 
means to work out a good solution, in America it usually means to 
work out a bad one, a solution in which all the points of importance 
(to both sides) are lost. Thus, in negotiations between the United 
States and Britain, all of which had, in the nature of the case, to be 
compromises, as two sovereignties were involved, the British could 
always speak approvingly and proudly of the result, while the 
Americans had to emphasize their losses. 

The words, then, that pass so readily from mouth to mouth are 
not entirely trustworthy substitutes for the facts of the physical 
world. The smooth-worn standard coins are slippery stepping- 
stones from mind to mind. Nor is thinking simply a matter of 
choosing words to express thoughts. The selected words always 
mirror social situation as well as objective fact. Two men go into 
a bar in New York and are overcharged for bad Hquor: “This is 
a gyp joint.” The same thing happens in Paris: “The French are 
a bunch of chisellers.” 



Perhaps the most important contribution of anthropological 
linguistics has come from the difficulties the anthropologist goes 
through in trying to express the meanings contained in speech 
structures completely foreign to the pattern of all European 
tongues. This study and this experience has forced upon the 
anthropologist a rather startling discovery which is fraught with 
meaning for a world where peoples speaking many different 
idioms are trjdng to communicate without distortion. Every 
language is sometliing more than a vehicle for exchanging ideas 
and information — more even than a tool for self-expression and 
for letting off emotional steam or for getting other people to do 
what WG want. 

Every language is also a special way of looking at the world 
and interpreting experience. Concealed in the structure of each 
different language are a whole set of unconscious assumptions 
about the world and life in it. The anthropological linguist has 
come to realize that the general ideas one has about what happens 
in the world outside oneself are not altogether ‘given’ by external 
events. Rather, up to a point, one sees and hears what the gram- 
matical system of one’s language has made one sensitive to, has 
trained one to look for in experience. This bias is the more 
insidious because everyone is so unconscious of his native language 
as a system. To one brought up to speak a certain language it is 
part of the very nature of things, remaining always in the class 
of background phenomena. It is as natural that experience should 
be organized and interpreted in these language-defined classes as 
it is that the seasons change. In fact, the naive view is that anyone 
who thinks in any other way is unnatural or stupid, or even 
vicious — and most certainly illogical. 

In point of fact, traditional, or Aristotelian, logic has been 
mainly the analysis of consistencies in the structures of languages 
like Greek and Latin. The subject-predicate form of speech has 
imphed a changeless world of fixed relations between ‘substances’ 
and their ‘qualities.’ This view, as Korzybski has insisted, is 
quite inadequate to modern physical knowledge, which shows 
that the properties of an atom alter from instant to instant in 
accord with the shifting relationships of its component elements. 



The little word ‘is’ has brought us much confusion because some- 
times it signifies that the subject exists, sometimes that it is a 
member of a designated class, sometimes that subjects and predi- 
cate are identical. Aristotehan logic teaches us that something is or 
isn’t. Such a statement is often false to reaHty, for both-and is 
more often true than either-or. ‘Evil’ ranges all the way from 
black through an infinite number of shades of grey. Actual 
experience does not present clear-cut entities like good’ and ‘bad,’ 
‘mind’ and ‘body’; the sharp spHt remains verbal. Modern 
physics has shown that even in the inanimate world there are 
many questions that cannot be answered by an unrestricted ‘yes’ 
or an unqualified ‘no.’ 

From the anthropological point of view there are as many 
different worlds upon the earth as there are languages. Each 
language is an instrument which guides people in observing, in 
reacting, in expressing themselves in a special way. The pie of 
experience can be sliced in many different ways, and language is 
the principal directive force in the background. You can’t say 
in Chinese, “Answer me yes or no,” for there aren’t words for 
yes and no. Chinese gives priority to ‘how?’ and non-exclusive 
categories; European languages to ‘what?’ and exclusive cate- 
gories. In English we have both real plurals and imaginary plurals, 
‘ten men’ and ‘ten days’; in Hopi plurals and cardinal numbers 
may be used only for things that can be seen together as an objec- 
tive group. The fundamental categories of the French verb are 
before and after (tense) and potentiahty versus actuaUty (mood) ; 
the fundamental categories of one American Indian language 
(Wintu) are subjectivity versus objectivity, knowledge versus 
behef, freedom versus actual necessity. 

In the Haida language of British Columbia there are more 
than twenty verbal prefixes that indicate whether an action was 
performed by carrying, shooting, hammering, pushing, pulling, 
floating, stamping, picking, chopping, or the like. Some lan- 
guages have different verbs, adjectives, and pronouns for animate 
and inanimate things. In Melanesia there are as many as four 
variant forms for each possessive pronoun. One may be used for 
the speaker’s body and mind, another for illegitimate relatives 



and his loin-cloth, a third his possessions and gifts. The under- 
lying conceptual images of each language tend to constitute a 
coherent though unconscious philosophy. 

Where in English one word, ‘rough,’ may equally well be used 
to describe a road, a rock, or the business surface of a file, the 
Navaho language finds a need for three different words which 
may not be used interchangeably. While the general tendency is 
for Navaho to make finer and more concrete distinctions, this is 
not inevitably the case. The same stem is used for rip, light beam, 
and echo, ideas which seem diverse to speakers of European 
languages. One word is used to designate a medicine bundle with 
all its contents, the skin quiver in which the contents are wrapped, 
the contents as a whole, and some of the distinct items. Some- 
times the point is not that the images of Navahos are less fluid 
and more delimited, but rather just that the external world is 
dissected along different lines. For example, the same Navaho 
word is used to describe both a pimply face and a nodule-covered 
rock. In English a complexion might be termed ‘rough’ or 
‘coarse,’ but a rock would never, except facetiously, be described 
as pimply. Navaho differentiates two types of rough rock: the 
kind which is rough in the manner in which a file is rough and 
the kind which is nodule-encrusted. In these cases the differences 
between Navaho and the English ways of seeing the world can- 
not be disposed of merely by saying that the Navaho language is 
more precise. The variations rest in the features which the two 
languages see as essential. Cases can indeed be given where the 
Navaho is notably less precise. Navaho gets along with a single 
word for flint, metal, knife, and certain other objects of metal. 
This, to be sure, is due to the liistorical accident that, after Euro- 
pean contact, metal in general and knives in particular took the 
place of flint. 

Navahos are perfectly satisfied with what seem to Europeans 
rather imprecise discriminations in the realm of time sequences. 
On the other hand, they are the fussiest people in the world about 
always making explicit in the forms of the language many distinc- 
tions which English makes only occasionally and vaguely. In 
English one says, “I eat,” meaning, “I eat something.” The 



Navaho point of view is different. If the object thought of is 
actually indefinite, then 'sometliing’ must be tacked on to the 

The nature of their language forces the Navaho to notice and 
report many other distinctions in physical events which the nature 
of the Enghsh language allows speakers to neglect in most cases, 
even though their senses are just as capable as those of the Navaho 
of registering the smaller details of what goes on in the external 
world. For example, suppose a Navaho range-rider and a white 
supervisor see that a wire fence needs repair. The supervisor will 
probably write in his notebook, Fence at such and such a place 
must be fixed.” If the Navaho reports the break, he must choose 
between forms that indicate whether the damage was caused by 
some person or by a non-human agency, whether the fence was 
of one or several strands of wire. 

In general, the difference between Navaho thought and English 
thought — both as manifested in the language and as forced by the 
very nature of the linguistic forms into such patterns — is that 
Navaho thought is ordinarily much more specific. The ideas 
expressed by the English verb ‘to go’ provide a nice example. 
When a Navaho says that he went somewhere he never fails to 
specify whether it was afoot, astride, by wagon, car, train, aero- 
plane, or boat. If it be a boat, it must be specified whether the 
boat floats off with the current, is propelled by the speaker, or is 
made to move by an indefinite or unstated agency. The speed of 
a horse (walk, trot, gallop, run) is expressed by the verb-form 
chosen. Fie differentiates between starting to go, going along, 
arriving at, returning from a point. It is not, of course, that these 
distinctions cannot be made in English, but that they are not made 
consistently. They seem of importance to English speakers only 
under special circumstances. 

A cross-cultural view of the category of time is highly instruc- 
tive. Beginners in the study of classical Greek are often troubled 
by the fact that the word opiso sometimes means ‘behind,’ some- 
times ‘ in the future.’ Speakers of English find tliis baffling because 
they are accustomed to think of themselves as moving through 
time. The Greeks, however, conceived of themselves as stationary, 



of time as coming up behind them, overtaking them, and then, 
still moving on, becoming the ‘past' that lay before their eyes. 

Present European languages emphasize time distinctions. The 
tense systems are usually thought of as the most basic of verbal 
inflections. However, this was not always so. Streitberg says 
that in primitive Indo-European a special indicator for the present 
was usually lacking. In many languages, certainly, time distinc- 
tions are only irregularly present or are of distinctly secondary 
importance. In Hopi the first question answered by the verb- 
form is that of the type of information conveyed by the assertion. 
Is a situation reported as actuality, as anticipated, or as a general 
truth? In the anticipatory form there is no necessary distinction 
between past, present, and future. The EngUsh translation must 
choose from context between ‘was about to run,' ‘is about to 
run,' and ‘will run.’ The Wintu language of California carries 
this stress upon implications of validity much further. The sen- 
tence ‘Harry is chopping wood' must be translated in five 
different ways, depending upon whether the speaker knows this 
by hearsay, by direct observation, or by inference of three degrees 
of plausibility. 

In no language are the whole of a sense experience and all pos- 
sible interpretations of it expressed. What people tliink and feel 
and how they report what they think and feel are determined, to 
be sure, by their personal history and by what actually happens in 
the outside world. But they are also determined by a factor which 
is often overlooked — namely, the pattern of linguistic habits 
which people acquire as members of a particular society. It 
makes a difference whether or not a language is rich in metaphors 
and conventional imagery. 

Our imaginations are restricted in some directions, free in 
others. The linguistic particularization of detail along one line 
will mean the neglect of other aspects of the situation. Our 
thoughts are directed in one way if we speak a language where all 
objects are classified according to sex, in another if the classifica- 
tion is by social position or the form of the object. Grammars 
are devices for expressing relations. It makes a difference what is 
treated as object, as attribute, as state, as act. In Hopi ideas 


referring to the seasons are not grouped with what we call nouns, 
but rather with what we call adverbs. Because of our grammar 
it is easy to personify summer, to think of it as a thing or a state. 

Even as between closely related tongues, the conceptual picture 
may be different. Let us take one final example from Margaret 

Americans tend to arrange objects on a single scale of value, from 
best to worst, biggest to smallest, cheapest to most expensive, etc., 
and are able to express a preference among very complex objects 
on such a single scale. The question, “What is your favorite 
color?” so intelligible to an American, is meaningless in Britain, 
and such a question is countered by: “Favorite color for what? A 
flower? A necktie?” Each object is thought of as having a most 
complex set of qualities, and color is merely a quality of an object, 
not something from a color chart on which one can make a choice 
which is transferable to a large number of different sorts of objects. 
The American reduction of complexities to single scales is entirely 
comprehensible in terms of the great diversity of value systems which 
different immigrant groups brought to the American scene. Some 
common denominator among the incommensurables was very much 
needed, and over-simplification was almost inevitable. But, as a 
result, Americans think in terms of qualities which have uni-dimen- 
sional scales, while the British, when they think of a complex object 
or event, even if they reduce it to parts, think of each part as retain- 
ing all of the complexities of the whole. Americans subdivide the 
scale; the British subdivide the object. 

Language and its changes cannot be understood unless linguistic 
behaviour is related to other facts of behaviour. Conversely, one 
can gain many subtle insights into those national habits and ways 
of thought of which one is ordinarily unconscious by looking 
closely at special idioms and turns of speech in one’s own and 
other languages. What a Russian says to an American doesn’t 
really get across just from shuffling words — much is twisted or 
blunted or lost unless the American knows something about Russia 
and Russian life, a good deal more than the sheer linguistic skill 
needed for a formally correct translation. The American must 
indeed have gained some entrance to that foreign world of values 
and significances which are stressed by the emphases of the 



Russian vocabulary, crystallized in the forms of Russian grammar, 
implicit in the little distinctions of meaning in the Russian 

Any language is more than an instrument for conveying ideas, 
more even than an^strument for working upon the feelings of 
others and for self-expression. Every language is also a means of 
categorizing experience. The events of the ‘reaT world are never 
felt or reported as a machine would do it. There is a selection 
process and an interpretation in the very act of response. Some 
features of the external situation are underHned; others are 
ignored or not fully discriminated. 

Every people has its own characteristic classes in which indi- 
viduals pigeon-hole their experiences. These classes are estab- 
lished primarily by the language through the types of objects, 
processes, or qualities which receive special emphasis in the voca- 
bulary and equally, though more subtly, through the types of 
differentiation or activity which are distinguished in grammatical 
forms. The language says, as it were, “Notice this'’; “Always 
consider this separate from that”; “Such and such tilings belong 
together.” Since persons are trained from infancy to respond in 
these ways, they take such discriminations for granted as part of 
the inescapable stuff of Hfe. When we see two peoples with 
different social traditions respond in different ways to what appear 
to the outsider to be identical stimulus situations, we realize that 
experience is much less an objective absolute than we thought. 
Every language has an effect upon what the people who use it 
see, what they feel, how they think, what they can talk about. 

‘Common sense’ holds that different languages are parallel 
methods for expressing the same ‘thoughts.’ ‘Common sense,’ 
however, itself impUes talking so as to be readily understood by 
one’s fellows — in the same culture. Anglo-American ‘common 
sense’ is actually very sophisticated, deriving from Aristotle and 
the speculations of scholastic and modem philosophers. The fact 
that all sorts of basic philosophic questions are begged in the most 
cavaher fashion is obscured by the conspiracy of silent acceptance 
which always attends the system of conventional understandings 
that we call culture. 



The lack of true equivalences between any two languages is 
merely the outward expression of inward differences between 
two peoples in premises, in basic categories, in the training of 
fundamental sensitivities, and in general view of the world. The 
way the Russians put their thoughts together shows the impress 
of linguistic habits, of characteristic ways of organizing experience, 
for, as Edward Sapir says. 

Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone 
in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very 
much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the 
medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to 
imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of 
language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving 
specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the 
matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously 
built up on the language habits of the group. . . . We see and hear 
and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language 
habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. 

A language is, in a sense, a philosophy. 



It is obvious that anthropologists have special knowledge and 
special abiUties for assisting Governments in administering primi- 
tive tribes and dependent peoples. They have been so employed 
by the British, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Mexican, French, 
and other Governments. An understanding of native institutions 
is a prerequisite for successful colonial government, though, thus 
far, anthropologists have been used more to implement pohcies 
than to formulate them. From colonial government to working 
upon problems of minority groups in a complex modern state is 
an easy step. Anthropologists served on the staff of the War Relo- 
cation Authority in dealing with evacuated Japanese Americans 
and assisted the War Labor Board and the Office of War informa- 
tion in handling other minority problems within the United States. 

During the war anthropological knowledge was put to use in 
handling native workers, in growing food in native areas, and 
in securing native co-operation for the Alhed cause. Many 
anthropologists helped to train 4000 Army officers and 2000 Navy 
officers for mihtary government in occupied territories. Anthro- 
pologists pkyed an important part in working out the series of 
booklets issued to men in the armed forces which ran the instruc- 
tional gamut from the use of AustraHan slang to the correct 
behaviour towards women in the Moslem world. They helped 
to discover the best way of inducing Japanese, Itahan, and Ger- 
man, prisoners to surrender and promoted continued resistance in 
countries occupied by our enemies. 

Since the end of the war anthropologists have been called upon 
by teachers, doctors, administrators in government and industry. 
Because we can experiment upon human beings only to a very 



limited extent, the nearest we can come to the experimental 
method that has been so successful in chemistry and physics is to 
note and analyse the results of the many different experiments 
that have been carried out by nature in the course of human his- 
tory. Tliis means in education, for example, that if some new 
practice is being considered, one useful thing to do would be to 
analyse all the different human groups in which children have 
been trained somewhat along these lines. By finding out how 
this has worked in other societies, some idea can be obtained as 
to whether or not the introduction of tins kind of training will 
be likely to succeed. By concentrating upon the conspicuous 
differences between our educational practices and those of other 
peoples we get a better understanding of our own conception of 
education. We might see, for instance, that primitives emphasize 
the stable and sacred, whereas our notions have been shaped by 
our will to assimilate immigrants, to improve, to be ‘up to date.’ 
Thus we have come to beheve in education as an instrument for 
creating something new, not merely for perpetuating the tradi- 
tional. Study of contrasting educational systems could Hkewise 
make the efforts of Government and missionary teaehers among 
colonial and dependent peoples more efficient. Without this 
perspective these teachers are all too likely to assume that the 
incentives which work best with children of their own group 
will work equally well with youngsters of another tradition. In 
fact, such incentives may not only fail to motivate children of 
another culture but may have the opposite effect. Anthropology 
is also significant in college education to-day because of its role 
in the organization and teaching of complete programmes on 
various major regions of the world. 

The uses of physical anthropology to some medical specialities 
have already been discussed, and the impHcations for pediatrics 
and psychiatry of the study of personaHty in culture will be con- 
sidered in the next chapter. The broadest utiHty of cultural 
anthropology to medicine consists in the anthropological faculty 
for swiftly apperceiving the principal currents of a culture as 
diey impinge on individuals. Carefully designed quantitative 
studies to give a cross-cultural testing of theories on mental 



health are just beginning to emerge. Donald Horton has shown 
that the higher the level of anxiety in a society the greater is the 
frequency of alcoholism. He has also correlated the intensity of 
drinking with certain cultural patterns for aggression release and 
for sexuality. The essentials of this method of discovering what 
types of custom tend to be consistently found together could be 
applied to many other problems. It has been speculated that 
adolescent suicide occurs more often where marriage is late and 
where premarital sexual expression is severely punished. This 
theory would be vindicated only if examination of die facts 
proved a higher rate in the more repressive societies and a lower 
one in the more permissive. 

Though the individual range of variation is wide in every 
society, the anthropologist knows that in any given culture the 
majority of individuals will respond much more readily to some 
appeals than to others. This is important not only in administra- 
tion but also in the work of the State Department in influencing 
pubhc attitudes abroad in such a way as to secure understanding 
and acceptance of our short-term and long-range policies. It is 
not sufficient to inform the governments of other states in the 
conventional legal and rational documents of statecraft. For there 
are now few nations in which poHcy is not influenced by public 
opinion. The background of United States policies must be kept 
in the foreground of peoples’ minds. This can be done only if 
we present our basic goals and the reasons for them in terms that 
take account of the situation and the sentiment patterns of the 
various peoples we wish to influence. 

Felix Kecsing says of Governments which were baffled by the 
strange behaviour of peoples they were trying to administer in 
the newly occupied islands of the Pacific and elsewhere: 

Just as they have looked to geology, entomology, and the other 
physical and biological sciences in handling the resources of the terri- 
tories concerned, and to tropical medicine in meeting health prob- 
lems, so they have drawn on anthropology to throw light on the 
exceedingly difficult problems of human relations, especially the 
adjustment of the so-called native or indigenous peoples to modem 


Applied anthropology, however, is a relatively new term. 
Applied Anthropology, tlie journal, dates only from 1941. Apart 
from the contributions of physical anthropology to the identifica- 
tion of criminals and the selection of army recruits, the first 
evidence that anthropology could be put to immediate practical 
use was perhaps the Golden Stool incident. In 1896 and once in 
this century Britain was involved in costly wars with the Ashanti, 
a people of the West Coast of Africa. The reasons for the 
disturbances were obscure to the colonial officials. In 1921 a 
similar outbreak was narrowly averted when an anthropologist 
pointed out the tremendous symbohe significance to the Ashanti 
of what to the British appeared to be merely a king’s seat — the 
Golden Stool. 

Shortly after this affair anthropology became a required course 
of study for candidates for the British colonial services. In 1933 
Commissioner John Collier added an anthropological staff to the 
United States Office of Indian Affairs. Mexico and other Latin- 
American countries soon recognized the contributions anthro- 
pology could make to creating literacy in native Indian languages 
and to casing the adjustments of aboriginal cultures to the modem 
world. Anthropologists began to be employed by the Soil 
Conservation Service and the Bureau of Agricultural Economies 
of the Department of Agriculture. 

In these early efforts the role of the anthropologist was primarily 
that of the ‘trouble-shooter.’ He was sent out when killings or 
the rise of an aggressive cult created an immediate problem. A 
poverty-stricken Indian tribe engaged in the wasteful practice of 
destroying every house in wliich death occurred. An anthro- 
pologist suggested that the people’s own rehgious culture pro- 
vided for nulhfying threats from the supernatural world by 
practices analogous to fumigation. The Indian service introduced 
fumigation, and the houses and property of the dead were no 
longer destroyed. In Papua anthropologists utilized the principle 
of cultural substitution by introducing a pig instead of a human 
body in a fertihty rite, a football to replace a spear in discharging 
hostihties between factions in a tribe. 

AppHed anthropology, however, has the function of instructing 


the general public as well as that of advising the administrator. 
Ignorance of the way of hfe in other countries breeds an in- 
difference and callousness among nations, a misinterpretation and 
misunderstanding which becomes ever more threatening as the 
world shrinks. Sophisticated exhibits in anthropological museums 
can greatly aid in breaking down deep-seated irrational attitudes 
towards alien cultures. By utilizing other appealing methods of 
voluntary education — films, lectures, popular publications — 
anthropologists are Httle by little informing pubhc opinion that 
the customs of others are as necessary to them as ours are to us, 
that each culture has its special needs. 

During the Second World War applied anthropology blos- 
somed. British anthropologists held important posts in the 
Foreign Office, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Information, the 
Wartime Social Survey, and in the field. One man was poHtical 
adviser for the whole Middle East, another carried the main 
administrative burden for the vast Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, still 
another handled liaison problems with native peoples in Kenya 
and Abyssinia. A woman anthropologist, Ursula Graham Bower, 
became popularly known as “the T. E. Lawrence of World War 
II.” Because she was able to win and hold the confidence of the 
Zemi, a strategically placed tribe on the Assam-Burma frontier, 
the Japanese invasion of India had a different history than might 
otherwise have been the case. 

In the United States anthropologists operated in their profes- 
sional capacities in Military Intelligence, the Department of State, 
the Office of Strategic Services, the Board of Economic Warfare, 
the Strategic Bombing Survey, Mihtary Government, the Selec- 
tive Service Organization, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the 
Office of War Information, the Quartermaster Corps, the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation, the War Relocation Authority, the 
Alcan Highway Project, the Hydrographic Office of the Chief of 
Naval Operations, the Foreign Economic Administration, the 
Federal Security Administration, the medical branch of the Army 
Air Forces, and the Chemical Warfare Division. In part, they 
worked on emergency research. A soldier’s handbook on Eritrea 


had to be prepared. A military phrase-book on pidgin-English 
needed checking. A man who could deal properly with savage 
Indians of Ecuador was the spearhead of an expedition seeking 
new sources of quinine. What were the distinctive forms of 
tattooing in the Casablanca region? Who had been in Borabora 
in the Society Islands? A manual on ‘'Jungle and desert emer- 
gencies’' was prepared to assist stranded aviators in recognizing 
and prepariug edible foods. Advice was given on designing^ 
clothing and equipment for the Arctic and the tropics. Assign-* 
ments ranged from screening Indian draftees of uncertain know- 
ledge of English to preparing a memorandum on “how to 
identify stale fish” (which was promptly classified by the Army 
as ‘confidential’). Visual education materials were prepared to 
help in the training of personnel detailed to secret work abroad, 
and anthropologists lectured in many orientation courses. 

However, as the War progressed, anthropologists were in 
demand as sometliing more than experts on the customs and 
languages of critical areas. Their skill was applied in diagnosing 
and correcting morale problems in our armed services and in 
various sectors of the home front, notably that of race relations 
in industry. They also helped to close up the gap between nutri- 
tional knowledge and nutritional practice. It became increasingly 
clear to many top administrators that effective prosecution of the 
war involved people as well as machines and materials. Hence 
anthropologists — and many other kinds of social scientists — had 
their opportunity. In the following discussion the focus will be 
upon the specifically anthropological contribution, but it should 
be stated explicitly that many of these projects were collaborative. 

In analysing enemy propaganda and in advising on the con- 
struction of our own psychological warfare, in predicting how 
tlie enemy would react under given circumstances, in making 
plans for building morale in our own nation, anthropologists had 
an opportunity for drawing upon the widest informational and 
theoretical stores of their science. For instance, anthropologists 
were asked these sort of questions by policy makers : hr reporting 
the early events of the war, ought we to minimize the disasters? 
Will this course give greater confidence? Will greater confidence 

i 62 


give greater efficiency? In anthropological terms, the poHcy 
makers Avere asking: Which types of motivation are prepon- 
derantly standardized in American culture? The greatest services 
of the anthropologist were in preventing his colleagues from 
casting both enemies and allies in the American image and in for 
ever reminding intellectuals of the significance of the non- 
rational. Certain professors and hterary men wanted to use our 
broadcasts to discuss democracy with the Japanese on a high 
intellectual plane. But you can’t reason men out of irrationaHty. 

In a school for training officers for military government in 
Italy an anthropologist was severely criticized by some of the 
Tiberal’ faculty of the school for making contacts between the 
officers and local Italian-Americans. It was complained that some 
of the latter had shown Fascist sympathies and also that they did 
not all speak standard Italian. It was maintained that distinguished 
Italians like Salvemini could teach the officers all they needed to 
know about Italy. The rejoinder of the anthropologist was that, 
after all, the officers were going to have to deal with Italians who 
had had Fascist sympathies, who were imperfectly educated — 
and not with Salveminis. Contact impHcd not complete moral 
acceptance but an opportunity to gain understanding and infor- 
mation of a sort not ordinarily provided by Ph.D.’s. 

Two illustrations will show the contrast between the anthro- 
pological point of view and the culture-bound point of view in 
dealing with our enemies. Controversy raged in Washington 
over our propaganda treatment of the imperial institution in 
Japan. The liberal intellectuals in general urged that we should 
attack this as the prop of a Fascist state. They mamtained that it 
was dishonest and a betrayal of the deepest American ideals to 
allow the Japanese to assume from our silence that we would 
tolerate the monarchy after our victory. The anthropologists 
opposed this policy. They had the general objection that the 
solution to conflicts between the United States and other peoples 
can never rest on a cultural imperiahsm that insists upon the 
substitution of our institutions for theirs. But they had more 
immediately practical objectives. They pointed out, first, that if 
one examined historically the place of the imperial institution in 


Japanese culture it was clear that there was no inevitable linkage 
with the contemporary pohtical attitudes and practices that we 
were bound to destroy. Second, since the imperial institution was 
the nucleus of the Japanese sentiment system, to attack it openly 
was to intensify and prolong enormously Japanese resistance, to 
give freely to the Japanese militarists the best possible rallying cry 
for morale. Third, the only hope for a unified Japanese surrender 
of all the forces scattered over Pacific Islands and on the continent 
of Asia was through this sole symbol that was universally 

Anthropologists showed that it is almost always more effective 
in the long run to preserve some continuity in the existing social 
organization and to work at reorganization from the established 
base. This had been demonstrated by the British anthropologists 
when they created the principle of ‘indirect rule.’ If the United 
States and its alhes wished to abolish the monarchy it could be 
abolished eventually by the Japanese themselves if we handled tlie 
situation adroitly and adopted an astute educational programme. 
When an institution is destroyed by force from without, there 
usually follows a compensatory and often destructive reaction 
from within. If a culture pattern collapses as a result of internal 
developments, the change is more likely to last. 

The second illustration is that of the attitude towards psycho- 
logical warfare directed at the Japanese armed forces. Most of 
our chief military men reasoned this way: We know that the 
Nazis are fanatics, but the Japanese have proved themselves still 
more fanatical. How can leaflets and broadcasts possibly affect 
soldiers who will go readily into a Banzai charge or fight under 
hopeless conditions in a cave, finally blowing themselves to pieces 
with a hand grenade? Why should the Uves of our men be 
risked in attempting to secure more prisoners when it is obvious 
that Japanese prisoners will not provide us with intelligence 
information? - ' 

The generals and admirals who argued in this fashion were 
highly intelligent men. In common-sense terms their picture was 
perfectly sound. Common sense was not enough, for it assumed 
that all human beings would picture the same situation to them- 



selves in identical terms. An American prisoner of war still felt 
himself to be an American and looked forward to resuming his 
normal place in American society after the war. A Japanese 
prisoner, however, conceived of himself as socially dead. He 
regarded his relations with his family, his friends, and his country 
as finished. But since he was physically alive he wished to affiliate 
himself with a new society. To the astonishment of their Ameri- 
can captors many Japanese prisoners wished to join the American 
Army and were, in their turn, astonished when they were told 
this was impossible. They willingly wrote propaganda for us, 
spoke over loud-speakers urging their own troops to surrender, 
gave detailed information on artillery emplacements and die 
military situation in general. In the last six months of the war 
some Japanese prisoners flew in American planes within forty- 
eight hours after their capture, spotting Japanese positions. Some 
were allowed to return within the Japanese lines and brought 
back indispensable information. 

From the American point of view there was something fan- 
tastic about all this. The behaviour before and after capture was 
utterly incongruous. The incongruity, however, rests on a cul- 
tural point. The Judaic-Christian tradition is that of absolute 
morality — the same code is, at least in theory, demanded in all 
situations. To anthropologists who had steeped themselves in 
Japanese hterature it was clear that Japanese morality was a 
situational one. As long as one was in situation A, one publicly 
observed the rules of the game with a fervour that impressed 
Americans as ‘fanaticism.’ Yet the minute one was in situation 
B the rules for situation A no longer applied. 

The majority of American policy makers were taken in by a 
cultural stereotype of the Japanese wlxich was interpreted in terms 
of motives and images projected from the American scene. ' The 
anthropologist was useful in making a cultural translation. More- 
over, he had grounds in established principles of social science for 
challenging the assumption that the morale of any people was or 
could be absolutely impregnable. Morale might be relatively 
high under certain conditions, but it could not be a constant 
under all conditions. The problem was to find the right means 


for widening the cracks and fissures that would inevitably open 
up with local and general defeats, the pressures of starvation and 
of isolation. The official Japanese attitude was that no Japanese 
was taken prisoner unless he were unconscious or so badly 
wounded he could not move. We swallowed this for a long time. 
Days or weeks after capture an interrogator beliind the lines 
would ask a prisoner how he happened to be taken. He would 
give the standard reply, “I was unconscious.” This would be 
entered in the tabulations. Eventually, however, sceptics began 
to check the reports made at the time of the incident. It was 
found that Private Watanabe, who had been Hsted as taken 
while unconscious, was actually captured while swimming. 
The difference between behaviour and cultural stereotype is 

Just as knowledge of the nature of ourselves and of our enemies 
was a powerful weapon in the armoury of psychological warfare, 
in political manipulation, and even in the timing and character of 
our actual military operations, so knowledge of the cultures of 
our aUies helped in getting us over the rough spots of combined 
action and in maintaining effective unity during the war. Here 
the problem was, for example, that of convincing the British 
and the Americans that each people was working towards the 
same goals by somewhat different techniques. It was necessary 
to show one nation that forms of words frequently used in the 
newspapers of the other had a different meaning to that audience 
from the meaning the same words would have in the press of the 
ally. It was useful to point out to the British that the sexual 
behaviour of American G.I.’s in Britain rested in part on their 
interpreting the behaviour of British girls as signifying what the 
same behaviour of American girls would indeed have indicated. 
Conversely, ill-feeling towards the British was lessened by con- 
veying to the G.I.s a picture of what their conduct meant in 
British as opposed to American terms. Leo Rosten’s 112 Gripes 
about the French was a clever and helpful translation of French 
culture into American. 

No claim is made that these anthropological efforts of various 
sorts were uniformly successful. On the contrary, the war clearly 



demonstrated certain immaturities of anthropology as a science 
and especially as an applied science. What remained sohd were 
certain ^'^alues in the anthropological approach. The utility of 
detailed information about certain areas was a somewhat acci- 
dental by-product of anthropological research. As an area expert, 
the anthropologist supplies less specialized knowledge than the 
geographer, the economist, the biologist, the public-health 
worker. The unique contribution of the anthropologist to 
regional studies rests on the fact that he alone studies all aspects of 
a given area — human biology, language, technology, social 
organization, adaptation to the physical environment. His train- 
ing equips him to Icam the essential facts about an area quickly 
and organize them into a well-rounded scheme. Because he has 
under one skull knowledge about the relation both of man to 
man and of man to nature, he is in a position to help the speciaUsts 
understand the relation of their speciaUty to the total life of a 

Not because of their superior intelligence, but because of the 
conditions under which they have had to do their work, anthro- 
pologists have developed ways of studying human groups which 
have been found to have certain advantages over the methods 
characteristic of the workers in other fields. The anthropologist 
is trained to see regularities. He views a society and culture as a 
rounded whole. This outlook must be contrasted with the more 
speciahzed but inevitably one-sided study of some isolated aspect. 
The anthropologist maintains that when one separates pubhe 
schools or methods of taxation or recreation out of the total 
culture and deals with them hke distinct layers in the face of a 
chff there is some distortion of reahty. The anthropologist is 
accustomed, whatever he may be concentrating upon in detail, to 
get the general social organization, the general economic pattern, 
etc. He may be working especially upon the myths of a people, 
but, even though he does not study the maize agriculture in 
detail, he never quite loses sight of the fact that maize is the basis 
of the economic system. This perspective is one of the keys to 
the anthropological approach. To see the parts in relation to the 
whole is more important than to know all the details. The facts 



are the scafFolding, while perspective is the structure itself. The 
structure may persist when most of the facts have been forgotten, 
and continue to provide a framework into which a new fact may 
be fitted when acquired. 

A second important hall-mark of anthropological method is, of 
course, the cultural point of view. On the one hand, the anthro- 
pologist adapts to the cultural habits and values of policy-makers 
and administrators whom he is advising. On the other hand, to 
the administrators he says, in effect: If you are used to a steam- 
engine but suddenly confronted with a maclhne that is obviously 
different, what would you do? Wouldn’t you try to learn about 
it before trying to get work from it? Instead of cursing the 
engine for lying down on the job, you would try to find out how 
it operated. Even if you think a steam-engine is more efficient, 
you wouldn’t treat an internal combustion engine like a steam- 
engine — if only an internal combustion engine was available. The 
applied anthropologist continually draws attention to the fact 
that what may to the foreigner appear to be simple and trivial 
habits that may be ignored are often so related to the deepest 
feelings as to invite serious conflict if they should be scorned, 
^he anthropologist always asks: “How does tliis look from their 
point of view?” T)“therwise policies will be formulated in terms 
of unconscious assumptions that are appropriate to administrator’s 
culture, but by no means shared by all men. 

Some natives uninfluenced by Western culture can hardly 
conceive of land being sold. One must for ever beware of the 
influence of the sentiments that have been so thoroughly absorbed 
from one’s culture as to remain unexaniined ‘background 
phenomena.’ Thus, to a member of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, a 
‘fair trial’ in a criminal case is taken for granted as trial by jury. 
However, large groups, even in the European pattern, are 
accustomed to Roman law which has as great a claim to being a 
great tradition of justice as has the Anglo-Saxon common law. 
The American judge must always justify his ruling on 1 particu- 
lar case by referring to some estabHshed general principle; the 
Chinese judge must never do so. An American whose car injured 
a Turk in Istanbul expected a lawsuit. When he visited his 



victim in the hospital the latter disposed of the incident by 
remarking, “What is written is written/' 

The specific goals of endeavour in one's own society (for 
example, the striving for money) cannot be taken for granted as 
psychologically natural. That incentives are not identical for all 
groups explains the partial failure of educational undertakings 
carried on by missionaries and by colonial governments. Social 
institutions camiot be understood apart from the people who 
participate in them. Nor can the behaviour of an individual be 
understood without reference to the systems of sentiments 
possessed by social groups of which he is a member. 

In the third place, anthropological method consists in apply- 
ing to a particular situation what is known about societies and 
cultures in general. The anthropologist’s contribution to the 
study of rural problems in the United States, does not rest in an 
initial familiarity with a given rural area, but in his training for 
discovering the pattern of customs and sentiments and for 
analysing how these operate as a total system. At best, the applied 
anthropologist is a social doctor, and, like the successful physiq^n, 
he has good judgment in applying general knowledge to one 

Problems in industry, in soil conservation and agricultural 
extension work, in persuading people to change their food 
habits appear at first glance to be within the realm of technology. 
In soil conservation, for example, the problem appears to be one 
for engineers and agricultural experts. These technologists, how- 
ever, can only discover the rational, scientific answer to a situa- 
tion. Much experience shows that people who live on the land 
will not necessarily follow the advice of experts when it is just 
presented to them as a scientific conclusion. Unless they are ‘sold’ 
on a programme of soil conservation by men who understand 
their customs, their ways of thought, and their deeply rooted 
feelings, a valuable and even essential project is hkely to fail 
through human resistance and quiet sabotage. In other words, 
there is an essential human element in the successful carrying out 
of all technological operations. Social anthropologists, in study- 
ing whole societies from a detached point of view, have learned 


ways of watching and listening that enable them to be rather 
shrewd in determining where pressure should be appUed and 
where it should be relaxed. 

Industrialists, engineers, and nutritionists are liighly trained, 
but their training is not along these lines. They can tell why a 
machine doesn’t work or how many acres of topsoil are washed 
away in a year or what foods are good for us, but they can seldom 
work out why one group of people work well together and 
another don’t or discover the quickest and most effective way of 
persuading a whole community to start eating an unfamiliar food. 
Food habits may be as important as food supply in determining 
whether a particular group is adequately nourished. Men do not 
treat food as mere nourishment; they endow it with symbolic 
value and place different foods in a prestige ranking. The sub- 
sistence value of food cannot be altered; the prestige or ritual value 
of food can be manipulated in various ways. Habitual behaviour 
patterns in food customs are usually automatic responses to 
stimuli based on childhood impressions. Fixed notions as to 
which foods are attractive in appearance, what foods can suitably 
or healthfully be eaten together, the proper utensils for each food 
are included in such patterns. Because of their automatic character 
they are the most difficult to change. 

Conditioned emotional responses to diets play an important 
part in food habits. National ways of life, traditional family cus- 
toms, religious scruples, aesthetic values, motor reactions, con- 
cepts of personal privileges, and individual health wishes are 
among such emotional responses. They are usually strongly 
established in the individual, and resistance inevitably develops to 
rational and logical arguments advocating their change. Hence 
adequate nourishment or proper distribution of food during war- 
time are not merely physiological or financial problems, but also 
problems in human relations. The same sum can buy an inade- 
quate diet in one case and an adequate diet based upon wise 
choice in another. Nor is the problem, as welfare agencies can 
testify, solely that of the distribution of surplus commodities, for 
certain available foods may not be eaten if the local culture rejects 
them as low in prestige or (on irrational grounds) as unhealthful. 



After the First World War starving Belgians refused to eat maize 
— they were accustomed to feeding it to their cattle. 

There is a necessary intermediate step between the discovery of 
socially useful technical knowledge and the utilization of that 
knowledge by the people. The application of any set of tech- 
niques is determined not 01 Jy by the techniques themselves and 
by the physical environment in which they are used, but also by 
the sentiments, traditions, and ideals of the people for whom they 
are intended. Anthropological methods are well adapted to 
handling tliis intermediate step of getting people to want or 
accept what natural science shows they need. The technical task 
of anthropology is discovering the factors in a culture or sub- 
culture that make for acceptance or non-acceptance, and pointing 
out the type of mental climate that must be created if living habits 
are to be changed. From this point of view the anthropologist’s 
study of culture change may be compared to the physician’s work 
in public health. In what sort of total environment does a disease 
spread? In what sort is it checked? What arc the susceptibilities 
and immunities of various populations? What are the carriers of 

The anthropologist’s experience with exotic cultures makes 
him cautious about interpreting in terms of familiar patterns ; he 
is alert to the possibility of unfamiliar or unobvious explanations. 
Because much of ‘primitive’ behaviour seems so nonsensical or 
irrational from the point of view of Western culture, anthropolo- 
gists have become accustomed to take everytlhng they see and 
hear seriously. This does not mean that they tliink everything 
they hear is ‘true.’ It means only that they recognize the possible 
significance of the ‘untrue’ and the ‘irrational’ in understanding 
and predicting how individuals or groups react. 

The more technical aspects of anthropological methods are 
also interesting. These involve ways of drawing people out and 
of evaluating what is said, gathering personal documents, using 
various tests. Anthropologists have learned to their cost that it 
may make a great deal of difference whether one is introduced 
into a new group by a trader or by a missionary or by a govern- 
ment employee, by a liked or by a dishked individual. They have 


also found out how important it is whether one's first friends in 
the society being investigated are placed towards the top or toward 
the society being investigated are placed towards the top or 
towards the bottom of that society. The habit of being wary on 
these and similar points pays good dividends in complex modern 
societies wliich are composed of a number of more or less 
separate local occupational and prestige groups. 

Anthropologists are being more and more drawn into the 
planning and administering of various types of programmes. 
Sometimes their role is merely that of advising or of doing back- 
ground research, but an increasing number are themselves 
becoming administrators. Whatever the precise field of activity, 
there are certain general characteristics of practical anthropology. 
Emphasis is always placed upon the importance of symbolic as 
well as utilitarian considerations in human relations. Communi- 
cation from the administrator to his superiors and subordinates 
as well as to the administered group must take account of both 
the rational and non-rational aspects of communication. Applied 
anthropology has now moved beyond the phase where the pri- 
mary task was that of inculcating respect for and understanding 
of native customs. The problem is now seen as two-sided. The 
content and structure of the culture of the administered group 
must still be analysed. The practical anthropologist must also 
have a systematic understanding of the special sub-cultures of the 
poHcy makers, the supervisory administrators, and the field 

Hence the anthropologist tends often to be a middleman whose 
indispensable function is that of making one group see the point 
of view of another. This position has its difficulties, as anthro- 
pologists in the War Relocation camps and in industry have dis- 
covered. To the Japanese in the camps the anthropologist seemed 
strange, for he was the one staff member who gave no orders. 
To other staff members the anthropologist appeared equally queer, 
for he appeared at least in part to identify himself with the Japan- 
ese evacuees — to be in the administration but not of it. The Japan- 
ese suspected the anthropologist to be a spy of the administration; 



the administration frequently feared the anthropologist as a 
spy of the Washington office. Only by scrupulously protecting 
the confidences of both sets of clients could the anthropologist 
cstabhsh trust in himself as a go-between. The top administrators 
were convinced of the need for lawyers and doctors, but only 
gradually were they convinced that specialists in human relations 
were useful in maintaining social health. In most cases the 
anthropologist won the confidence of liis project-director by 
proving that he could be a reUable forecaster of the social weather, 
by pointing a finger at trouble spots ahead so that the administra- 
tion might adopt preventive measures or at least be prepared to 
deal with trouble when it came. 

The same kind of approach has been appHed in commmiity 
settlement, regional r^abilitation, and in laying the groundwork 
for future peace in occupied areas. The job of the anthropologist 
has been to discover sources of irritation and conflict among 
the groups being aided that were not obvious to officials and 
technicians from the outside. The tendency used to be to 
consider man only as a physical animal and land as a physical 
resource. Anthropologists have drawn attention to the fact 
that a whole set of values and customary patterns of social 
Hfe intervene between men and natural resources and that this 
total network must be investigated. As Redfield and Warner 

The problems of the American farmer have been attacked chiefly 
on the side of agricultural tcclmology, credit, and marketing and to 
some extent in terms of the varied and special efforts at rural better- 
ment, sometimes called social welfare. From the viewpoint of social 
anthropology, the agricultural tecliniques, farm credits, land tenure, 
social organizations and morale of a farming community are all 
more or less interdependent parts of a whole. This whole, as such, 
can be studied objectively. 

Identical principles apply in the realms of mihtary government 
and colonial administration. The morale of every society depends 
upon the security which individuals feel that in acting with others 
their own needs will be fulfilled. The administrator must never 
forget that this security may rest upon premises and upon emo- 


tional response-sequences which are quite different from those to 
which he is accustomed. Americans are a higlily practical people. 
They commonly assume, without reflection or analysis, that the 
ultimate criterion of any act is its utility, conceived in material 
terms. A given course of action may make sense to an American 
and yet seem arbitrary, unreasonable, or oppressive to a people of 
a different cultural tradition. An apparently innocent and teclmo- 
logically helpful improvement may bring confusion into social 
relations. When the Western-style house was introduced into 
Samoa the lack of posts abolished the fixed guides to seating posi- 
tions for persons of different ranks. These positions had symboHzed 
the whole structure of Samoan society. Their sudden disap- 
pearance disrupted the normal way of life. 

Military government and colonial administration arc inevitably 
attempts at directed culture change. Change is always going on 
in all societies — though at varying rates. The country of Yemen 
is at the moment stepping suddenly from the thirteenth century 
into the twentieth. Directed change is often necessary and can 
bring much more gain than loss to a pre-industrial group. But if 
it be forced too rapidly, and if new motivations for carrying on 
socially valuable aspects of the culture arc not introduced, change 
can be disruptive to the extent that whole groups become 
perennial reservoirs of delinquency and criminality, or, as has 
been the case with certain Pacific Islanders, they completely lose a 
zest for life and commit race suicide. The measures taken by 
missionaries, administrators, and educators have all too fre- 
quently produced not an acceptable imitation of a Christian 
European but a chaotic individual not rooted in any definite way 
of life. Both culture change that is forced with destructive rapidity 
and wilful holding back on the part of a governing power create 
maladjustment and hostiHty. 

If we understand that even the most casual culture traits may be 
intimately linked to the aspirations of a people, we realize that 
needful changes will be made slowly if they are to be construc- 
tive. The blocking of familiar channels of action and expression 
can be at least as disturbing as the problems created by innova- 
tions. And innovations do not necessarily create motivations 


corresponding to those in Western culture. Rather, as Frederick 
Hulse says, they may have “a depressive effect upon such incen- 
tives as previously existed.'’ Hulse draws an excellent illustration 
from Japan: 

Those incentives to productive activity which arc taken for granted 
by most western economists are lacking among the laboring class 
in Japan, and such social incentives as the hope for admiration of 
their skill and ingenuity, which were adequate and proper under the 
feudal system, could not be effective among the great majority, who 
had never attained a craftman’s skill. All that remains is the necessity 
of somehow getting food, clothing, and shelter for oneself and one’s 
family. Consequently the early collapse of the rationing system, the 
booming of the black market, the overcrowding of trains by people 
visiting their farmer relatives, became inevitably a greater and greater 
drain upon the war potential of Japan. 

When culture contact is haphazard and shortsighted, the effects 
can boomerang back to the exploiting nations. Had the European 
countries who so rashly prised open the doors of Japan and 
China truly understood cultural relativity there might to-day 
be no Pearl Harbour to remember and no threat from the 
vast disorganization of China. It is, to be sure, equally true 
that it was a misunderstanding of the less superficial aspects of 
American life that led the Japanese to their blunder of Pearl 

During the past century many peoples have been jostled about 
and abused by the dominant nations of Europe and America. 
The more this occurs the more such peoples are hkely to cHng 
together in aggregates — Pan-Asiatic, Pan-Islamic, or similar 
potentially military groupings. This can happen even if we treat 
them by what we consider just standards, for the critical question 
must always be: Do they feel themselves to be justly treated? 
Bernard Shaw’s quip is to the point: “The Golden Rule is really: 
‘don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you — 
their tastes may be different.’ ” Nor is it any use to say : Let other 
cultures alone. Contacts between peoples must inevitably increase 
and mere contact is itself a form of action. A people is altered by 
the mere knowledge that others are different from themselves. 


The important thing is that whatever is done shall be appropriate, 
shall bear some meaningful relation to the cultural values and 
expectations of both sides. 

If the values of the minority group are destroyed the major 
power has not only obliterated potential enrichment to general 
human nature but has also created problems for itself In Fiji, for 
instance, prestige used to depend on how big a feast and how 
much goods a man could give away to his clan. A man was not 
refused that for which he asked, but was expected to give if he 
could, and social approbation went to the giver. Thus a strong 
competitive motive, both for production and for an equitable 
distribution of food, was ordinarily assured. Seeking to replace 
this pattern by encouraging thrift and by other well-meaning 
gestures, British officials and missionaries succeeded only in under- 
mining the whole economic system. With great numbers of the 
population dying in epidemics introduced from Europe, a sharply 
falling birth rate, and the pauperized survivors barely existing on 
issues of rice, it seemed for a time that the Fijians were doomed to 

The tempo with which changes are introduced is always a 
difficult problem, with complications incident to each specific 
case. Decisions will necessarily represent compromises between 
practical requirements and theoretically desirable time intervals. 
Ideally, changes should increasingly be initiated by the ad- 
ministered people themselves. The goal of the anthropological 
administrator is not attained when some understanding of the 
ahen culture has been attained by representatives of the governing 
power. The anthropologist ought also to help the administered 
group to understand themselves in comparative terms, to grasp 
the alternatives, and to choose the directions in which they wish 
to move. Lyman Bryson says: 

Social Engineers in that case would come to help the weak and 
the devastated, not like a road engineer who arrives with his own 
blueprints for a road to a distant and alien city of his own choosing, 
but as one who says ‘Tii what direction, friends, have you always 
travelled ? Let us study that road and see if we can rebuild it so that 
you can safely arrive.'' 



During the last twenty years there has been created at the 
Harvard Business School, the Massachusetts Institute of Tech- 
nology, and the University of Chicago a new speciality which is 
sometimes known as industrial anthropology. In the now 
famous studies of the Western Electric Plant at Cicero, Illinois, it 
was decided to approach the human problems of industry in the 
manner that the anthropologist had been forced to employ in 
studying primitive tribes — that is, observers were to banish their 
preconceptions as to why people worked hard, why they did or 
didn’t get along. The observers were to proceed as if they were 
entering a completely alien world: to note and to analyse without 
introducing assumptions that did not arise from the data. 

Industrial anthropology consists in applying to one sector of 
our own society the techniques and types of reasoning developed 
in anthropological field work and in anthropology as used in 
colonial administration. Previous personnel work had been 
directed towards the development of greater efficiency rather 
than towards the maintenance of co-operation. But it was dis- 
covered that physical improvements in working conditions did 
not increase output unless the workers interpreted them as a 
favourable social change. New routines that actually resulted in 
lessened physiological fatigue brought about decreased production 
because they disturbed customary social relations. Engineers 
tended to think, act, and communicate in rational terms. Workers 
reacted in non-rational fashion according to the logic of the senti- 
ments current in their particular sub-culture. Because strikes 
occurred even when workers’ demands for hours, wages, and 
physical facihties were fully met, management was finally led to 
social as well as technological engineering. Anthropologists 
helped management to realize that, whereas an engineer’s draw- 
ing will accurately indicate the workings of a machine, the chart 
in the president’s office showing the chain of command in the 
formal organization of an industry is not a fully correct repre- 
sentation of the lines of significant communication. Every cul- 
ture has patterns of behaviour as well as ideal patterns. Informal 
systems of behaviour, involving clique structures and the conse- 
quences of a foreman’s individuahty as well as his status, can 


effectively short-circuit the neat and rational flow of energy 
indicated on the chart. 

This is, of course, not limited to industrial organizations. 
Plans carefully thought through in the United States Indian Office 
in Washington failed of fruition because of informal patterns of 
relationships in a field office which were not taken into account 
by the planners. A programme can be thoroughly sabotaged at 
the operating level by over-Hteral compliance, by strategic delays, 
by action that is verbally correct but emotionally hostile. Ameri- 
can popular imagination pictures a ‘big executive’ as ‘running’ 
an organization. However, it is pure fiction to suppose that an 
executive can attain his objectives by sitting in an office and giving 
orders. As they say in the State Department, “policy is made on 
the cables.” That is, an incident occurs in a foreign country, and 
instructions must immediately be sent to our representatives 
there. Tliis particular contingency has not been foreseen by the 
top men who are supposed to formulate policy. A decision is 
made in a hurry by a subordinate and, in nine cases out of ten, 
the Department is committed to a pohey by the action taken. In 
most organizations these decisions determine poHcy. The ideal 
pattern is blocked by the power of informal behaviour patterns 
that are left out of consideration in administrative planning. 

Nevertheless, there are discoverable regularities in the human 
just as much as in the technological problems of industry and of 
all organizations. The informal organization, just exactly where 
and how the formal and informal charts mesh, the semantic 
aspects of communication, the sentiment systems and symbols 
of each sub-culture can be mapped out with enough accuracy to 
be useful. As Eliot Chappie has written: 

On questions of a technological nature, the anthropologist is not 
trained to give judgment; he is not primarily concerned with the 
comparative efficiency of two methods of farming, nor with the 
value of a new system of cost accounting. What he can do is to pre- 
dict what will happen to the relations or people when such methods 
are introduced. It is the administrator’s business to make the decision, 
weighing the evidence furnished by the anthropologist and the 
technical expert. 




By using anthropological methods, the administrator can attain 
a control in the field of human relations comparable to that which 
he already has in the field of costs and production. He can under- 
stand and estimate the effects of change, and see what steps have to 
be taken to modify his organization or to restore it to a state of 
balance. He can do this both through acquiring a knowledge of 
anthropological principles, and by using anthropologists to make 
analyses of existing situations. 

The earlier anthropological work in industry was largely con- 
fined to human relations within the factory. The interdependence 
of industry and community also needs to be investigated. The 
special form of labour problems in the Piedmont industrial area of 
the South is seen as patterned by the persistence of cultural habits 
governing landlord-tenant relationships. The plastics industry 
in New England is found to be dependent upon continua- 
tion of one type of family structure found among some 
immigrant groups where the younger generation continues to 
submit to parental authority even after marriage and to maintain 
an economic unit with the parents. Conrad Arensberg has pointed 
out how some of the special features of behaviour in automobile 
unions are related to the fact that so many of these workers were 
drawn from the hill regions of the South. 

Tcclonological changes inevitably bring about changes in social 
organization both outside and within the factory. It is the anthro- 
pologist’s task so to map social space and to chart the main flows 
of cultural currents that the unexpected consequences of the 
rational acts of the engineer and the efficiency expert can be mini- 
mized. Otherwise the non-rational aspects of social life will 
become irrational. Just as a too rapid pace of culture change 
brings about apathy or hostility or self-destruction, so sudden 
technical innovations lead to vast social erosion within our society. 
It is not just that opportunities for Jobs are destroyed. If the 
worker is rushed without warning into a new job where he 
cannot use the skill upon which his self-confidence was based, a 
job that has no name that brings social recognition outside the 
workroom, free-floating anxiety and potential aggression may 
burst into civil strife. 


The applied anthropologist has useful ways of getting and con- 
veying all sorts of information on human relations. Because he 
considers any one group’s behaviour as an exemplification of 
general social and cultural processes, he can often make a swift 
diagnosis on the basis of a few clues, Hke a palaeontologist who 
reconstructs a whole animal from a few bones on the basis of his 
general knowledge of the structure of similar animals. Because 
he knows what happens when a few threads in the pattern are 
pulled, he can beware of the unexpected consequences of planned 
social action. By reconnoitring the cultures of administrators 
and administered, he perceives the natural rivalry hues in each 
group. He discriminates between the characteristics of decision- 
making personnel, those of the public they represent, and those 
of the people towards whom action is directed. Hence he is an 
effective liaison man between all groups. He knows that some- 
times it is necessary to direct the boat upstream to get to the 
opposite shore. 

All in all, the practical anthropologist will do well to conceive 
his role as that of the social doctor rather than as that of the social 
engineer. In some quarters appHed anthropology is decried as 
‘the manipulation of people.’ Ep ithets ranging from ‘scientific 
prostitute’ to ‘the liired hands of empire’ are freely used. (The 
other side replies, of course, with ‘ivory-tower escapist.’) Granted 
that no profession should be composed of a set of technicians who 
sell their services to the highest bidder without regard for other 
considerations, some of the excitement seems a little fooUsh. The 
industrial anthropologist is equally available to labour unions and 
to management. His knowledge is pubhshed — ^not the jealously 
guarded trade secret of a capitalist Gestapo. People are manipu- 
lated in advertising, in films, on the radio, and indeed in teaching. 
If an anthropologist is permitted to discuss cultural change with 
students, it is probably safe to let him advise the Indian service. 
There is need for the development of a more expUcit and generally 
accepted professional code, and the Society for Applied Anthro- 
pology has been working to this end for several years. Most 
anthropologists, however, would already subscribe to John 
Embree’s statement: 



Just as the medical doctor has a basic doctrine that he should 
prevent disease and save life, so the appUed anthropologist tends to 
operate on a basic doctrine that he should prevent friction and 
violence in human relations, preserve the rights and dignity of ad- 
ministered groups, and that he should save lives ... aid in establish- 
ing peaceful and self-respecting relations between peoples and 


(the individual and the group) 

The anthropologist, like the psychologist and the psychiatrist, is 
trying to find out what makes people act and react as they do. 
The question of the flexibility of ‘human nature’ is no mere 
academic quibble. A sound answer is essential to realistic educa- 
tional schemes and to practical social planning. The Nazis 
assumed they could fashion people into almost any shape they 
wanted if they started early enough and appHed sufficient pres- 
sures. The Communists tend in some ways to assume that ‘human 
nature’ is everywhere and always the same — as, for instance, in 
their assumption that the primary motivations arc inevitably 
economic ones. Within what limits can human beings be 
moulded.^ The only scientific way of obtaining at least the mini- 
mum range is to look at the record of all known peoples, past and 
present. How do different groups train their children in such a 
way that the personaHties of adults, though varying among them- 
selves, nevertheless exlhbit many triats that are less characteristic 
of other groups? The statistical prediction can safely be made 
that a hundred Americans will display some features of personal 
organization and behaviour more frequently than will a hundred 
EngUshmen of comparable age, social class, and vocational assort- 
ment. In so far as it can be discovered precisely how this is 
brought about, much progress will have been made towards 
being able to improve cliildhood training in the home and formal 
education so as to create the traits thought most desirable. A 
tremendous step forwards in the understanding of international 
differences and frictions will also have been taken. 




Which of the many courses of behaviour within an individuars 
physical and mental capacities he characteristically takes is deter- 
mined in part by culture. Human material has a tendency towards 
shapes of its own, but a definition of sociaHzation in any culture 
is the predictabiUty of an individual’s daily behaviour in various 
defined situations. When a person has surrendered much of his 
physiological autonomy to cultural control, when he behaves 
most of the time as others do in following cultural routines, he 
is then socialized. Those who retain too great a measure of 
independence are necessarily confined in the asylum or the gaol. 

Children are brought up in different ways in different societies. 
Sometimes they are weaned early and abruptly. Sometimes they 
are allowed to nurse as long as they like, gradually weaning them- 
selves at the age of three or more. In certain cultures the child is 
harshly dominated from the beginning by mother or father or 
both. In others affectionate warmth prevails in the family to the 
extent that parents refuse to take the responsibility for disciplining 
their children themselves. In one group the youngster grows up 
in the isolated biological family. Until he goes to school he must 
adjust himself only to liis mother, his father, a brother or sister 
or two, and, in some cases, one or more servants. In other 
societies the baby is handled and even nursed by several different 
women, all of whom he presently learns to call ‘mother.’ He 
grows up in an extended family where many adults of both sexes 
play approximately equivalent roles towards him and where his 
maternal cousins are scarcely distinguished from his own brothers 
and sisters. 

Some of each child’s wants are those common to all human 
animals. But each culture has its own scheme for the most 
desirable and the most approved ways of satisfying these needs. 
Every distinct society communicates to the new generation very 
early in Ufe a standard picture of valued ends and sanctioned means 
of behaviour appropriate for men and women, young and old, 
priests and farmers. In one culture the prized type is the sophisti- 
cated matron, in another the young warrior, in still another the 
elderly scholar. 

In view of what the psycho-analysts and the child psychologists 


have taught us about the processes of personaHty formation, it is 
not surprising that one or more patterns of personality are more 
frequent among the French than among the Chinese, among the 
English upper classes than among the Enghsh lower classes. This 
does not, of course, imply that the personality characteristics of 
the members of any group are identical. There arc deviators in 
every society and in every social class within a society. Even 
among those who approximate to one of the typical personality 
structures there is a great range of variation. Theoretically this is 
to be expected because each individuafs genetic constitution is 
unique. Moreover, no two individuals of the same age, sex, and 
social position in the same sub-culture have identical life ex- 
periences. The culture itself consists of a set of norms that are 
varyingly applied and interpreted by each father and mother. 
Yet we do know from experience that the members of difJerent 
societies will tend, typically, to handle problems of biological 
gratification, of adjustment to the physical environment, of 
adjustment to other persons in ways that have much in common. 
There is, of course, no assumption that ‘national character* is 
fixed throughout liistory. 

It is a fact of experience that if a Russian baby is brought to the 
United States he will, as an adult, act and think like an American 
• — not like a Russian. Perhaps the most difficult question in the 
whole field of anthropology is: What makes an Itahan into an 
Italian, a Japanese into a Japanese? The process of becoming a 
representative member of any group involves a moulding of raw 
human nature. Presumably the new-born infants of any society 
are more like other infants anywhere in the world than like older 
individuals in their own group. But the finished products of 
each group show certain resemblances. The great contribution of 
anthropology has consisted in calling attention to the variety of 
these styles of behaviour, to the circumstance that various kinds 
of mental disease occur with varying frequency in different 
societies, to the fact that there are some striking correspondences 
between childhood training patterns and the institutions of adult 

It is all too easy to over-simpUfy this picture. Probably the 

i 84 mirror for man 

Prussian tends to see all human relationships in authoritarian terms 
largely because his first experiences were set in the authoritarian 
family. But this type of family structure was supported by the 
accepted ways of behaving in the army, in poHtical and economic 
Hfe, in the system of formal education. The fundamental direc- 
tions of childhood training do not derive from the inborn nature 
of a people; they look forward to the roles of men and women 
and are cast in the mould of the society’s most pervasive ideals. 
As Pettit has said, ‘'Corporal punishment is rare among primi- 
tives not because of an innate kindliness, but because it is anti- 
pathetic to the development of the type of individual personality 
set up as an ideal.” 

Childhood training patterns do not in any simple sense cause 
the institutions of adult life. There is, rather, a reciprocal rela- 
tion, a relation of mutual reinforcement, between the two. No 
arbitrary change, divorced from the general emphases of the cul- 
ture, in methods of child rearing will suddenly alter adult per- 
sonalities in a desired direction. This was the false assumption 
that underlay certain aspects of the progressive education move- 
ment. In these schools children were being prepared for a world 
that existed only in the dreams of certain educators. When the 
youngsters left the schools they either reverted naturally enough 
to the view of life they had absorbed in pre-school days in their 
families or they dissipated their energies in impotent rebellion 
against the pattern of the larger society. ‘Competition’ — or at 
least certain types of competition for certain ends — may be ‘bad,’ 
yet American tradition and the American situation weave compe- 
tition into the whole texture of American life. The attempt on 
the part of the small minority to eliminate this attitude by school 
practices results either in failure or in conflict or retreat for the 
individuals concerned. 

It is especially absurd to seize upon a single childhood disci- 
pline as the magic key to the whole tone of a culture. One vul- 
garization of a scientific theory on Japanese character structure 
traces the sources of Japanese aggression to early and severe toilet 
training. This has been deservedly ridiculed as the ‘Scott Tissue 
interpretation of history.’ The whole set of childhood disciplines 



is as insufficient to explain typical personality structure as is any 
list of culture traits without information as to their organization. 
One needs to know the inter-relationships of all the rewards and 
punishments; when, how, and by whom they were administered. 

Occasionally there is a highly probable coimexion between a 
particular aspect of the child’s experience and a particular pattern 
of adult Ufe. Divorce is extremely frequent among the Navahos. 
In part, this may well be related to the fact that the Navaho child’s 
affection and emotional dependency is not so tied to the two 
parents. However, we know from the recent history of our own 
society that a high divorce rate can also be produced by other 
causes, though there is the difference that Navaho divorce is 
taken in much more matter-of-fact fashion, with much less emo- 
tional upset. '^This is related to the absence of the romantic love 
complex among the Navahos, which, agaiu, presumably depends 
to some degree upon the childhood experience where there is 
less focus upon one mother and one father. 

At any rate, the over-all pattern for personality can be under- 
stood only in terms of total childhood experience plus the 
situational pressures of adult life. It may well be, as the psycho- 
analysts claim, that maximum indulgence of the child in the pre- 
verbal period is correlated with a secure, well-adjusted personality. 
However, this can be regarded only as foundation — ^not as promise 
of fulfilment. The Navaho child receives every gratification in 
the first two years of Ufe. But adult Navahos manifest a very 
high level of anxiety. This is largely a response to the reality 
situation; in terms of their present difficulties as a people they are 
reahstically worried and suspicious. 

These situational factors and cultural patterns are jointly respon- 
sible for the fact that; each culture has its pet mental disturbances. 
Malayans ‘run amok^; certain Indians of Canada take to canniba- 
hstic aggression; peoples of South-east Asia fancy themselves 
possessed by weretigers; tribes of Siberia are prey to ‘arctic 
hysteria’ ; a Sumatran people goes in for ‘pig-madness.’ Differen- 
tiated groups within a culture show varying rates of incidence. 
In the United States to-day schizophrenia is more frequent among 
the lower classes; manic-depressive psychosis is an upper-class 


1 86 

ailment. The American middle classes suffer from psychosomatic 
disturbances such as ulcers related to conformance and repressed 
aggression. Certain kinds of psychological invalidism are charac- 
teristic of American social climbers. Feeding problems are more 
frequent among cliildren of Jewish families in the United States. 
The explanation of these facts cannot be solely biological, for 
American women once outnumbered men as ulcer patients. In 
some societies more men than women become insane; in others 
the reverse. In certain cultures stammering is predominantly a 
female affliction, in others male. Japanese living in Hawaii are 
much more prone to manic-depressive disorders than Japanese 
living in Japan. High blood-pressure troubles American Negroes 
but is rare among African Negroes. 

Antkropologists have studied not the uniqueness of each indi- 
vidual but rather personaHty as the product of the channelling of 
the desires and needs, both biological and social, of the members 
of social groups. To the extent that we become aware of the 
needs, not only economic and physical but also emotional, of 
other peoples, their actions appear less obscure, less unpredictable, 
less ‘immoral.’ There is a unifying pliilosophy behind the way 
of life of each society at any given point in its history. The main 
outlines of the fundamental assumptions and recurrent feelings 
have only exceptionally been created out of the stuff of unique 
biological heredity and peculiar life experience. They are usually 
cultural products. From the ways of Ufe of his environment the 
ordinary individual derives most of his mental outlook. To him 
his culture or sub-culture appears as a homogeneous whole; he 
has little sense of its historic depth and diversity. 

Since cultures have organization as well as content, this intuitive 
reaction is partially correct. Each culture has its standard plots, 
its type conflicts, and type solutions. And so the culturally stylized 
aspects of nursing, the usual ways of dressing a child, the accepted 
rewards and punishments in toilet training are all equally part of 
an unconscious conspiracy to convey to the youngster a particular 
set of basic values. Each culture is saturated in its own meanings. 
Hence no valid science of human behaviour can be built on the 
canons of radical behaviourism. For in every culture there is 



more than meets the eye, and no amount of external description 
can convey this underlying portion of it. Bread and wine may 
mean mere nourishment for the body in one culture. They may 
mean emotional communion with the deity in another. The 
bare fact in each case is the same, but its place in cultural structure 
— and therefore its significance for understanding the behaviour 
of individuals — ^has changed. 

Some sorts of behaviour will be manifested by all human 
beings regardless of how they have been trained. There is an 
organic ‘push’ in each different individual towards certain kinds 
of acts. But to each biologically given characteristic is imputed a 
cultural meaning. Moreover, each culture is successful to greater 
or lesser extent in ‘pulling’ the variety of impulses in the same 
directions. Over and above the penalties attached to deviance, it 
is easier and aesthetically more satisfying to pattern one’s own 
conduct in accord with pre-existing forms that have been made 
to seem as natural and inevitable as the alternation of night and 

The characteristics of the human animal wloich make culture 
possible are the abiHty to learn, to communicate by a system of 
learned symbols, and to transmit learned behaviour from genera- 
tion to generation. But what is learned varies widely from 
society to society and even in different sectors of the same society. 
The manner of learning also shows patterned and characteristic 
forms. The emotional tone of the parents and of other agents for 
transmitting the culture has typical and culturally enjoined modes. 
The situations in which learning takes place are differently defined 
and phrased in diflferent societies. The rewards for learning, the 
‘squeezes’ in learning situations, the sanctions for failing to learn 
take many different forms and emphases. This is true not only 
for the culture as a whole but also for various sub-cultures within 
it. The formation of the American child’s personality is affected 
by the particular social, economic, and regional sub-group to 
which the parents belong. The patterns for physical growth and 
maturation are about the same for rich and poor children, but 
the child-training practices, preferred hfe goals and manners, 
rewards and punishments, belong to quite different worlds. 


AU animals exhibit certain limitations, capacities, and require- 
ments as organisms. These must never be forgotten in enthusiasm 
over the determining powers of culture. Margaret Mead’s well- 
known bookiSex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies 
given many readers an impression that she is arguing that the 
temperamental differences between men and women are com- 
pletely produced by culture. The one-line book review by a 
fellow anthropologist is a sobering corrective: “Margaret, this is 
a very briUiant book. But do you really know any cultures in 
which the men have the babies?” 

The pressures of child training bring their influences to bear 
upon different biological materials. MetaboHc needs vary. 
Digestion does not require precisely the same time in every baby. 
The first cultural disciplines are directed towards three very basic 
organic responses: accepting, retaining, and releasing. Cultures 
vary widely in the extent to which they place positive or negative 
stress upon one or more of these reactions. A potent source of 
individual variation witloin a society rests in the fact that the 
reaction to cultural training is modified by the child’s relative 
degree of neurological maturity. Even apart from babies known 
to be born prematurely, the nervous equipment of new-born 
infants shows a sizable range. 

Nevertheless, there is still considerable leeway among the 
organically defined possibihtics. The requirements of human 
animals for survival and gratification can be attained in more 
than one way through the given capacities. Especially in the case 
of a symbol-using animal like man, these are significant questions : 
What is learned? Who teaches it? How is it taught? There is a 
continuous and dynamic inter-relationship between the patterns 
of a culture and the personahties of its individual members. 
Though certain needs are universal, they receive different emphases 
in different societies. A society perpetuates itself biologically by 
means that are well known. Less fully reahzed is the fact that 
societies are constantly perpetuating themselves socially by incul- 
cating in each new generation time-tried ways of beHeving, feel- 
ing, thinking, and reacting. 

Like rats learning to run a maze that has food at its exit, chil- 



dren gradually familiarize themselves with the well-trodden but 
often devious intricacies of the cultural network. They learn to 
take their cues for response not merely from their personal needs, 
nor from the actuaUties of a situation, but from subtle aspects of 
the situation as culturally defined. This cultural cue says: Be 
suspicious and reserved. That says: Relax; be sociable. In spite 
of the diversities of individual natures, the Crow Indian learns to 
be habitually generous, the Yurok habitually stingy, the Kwakiutl 
chieftain habitually arrogant and ostentatious. Far from being 
always resentful at the walls of the cultural maze, most adults, 
and even children to some extent, derive pleasure from the per- 
formance of cultural routines. Human beings generally find it 
liighly rewarding to behave like others who share the same cul- 
ture. The sense of running the same maze also promotes social 

The extent to which personality is a cultural product has been 
obscured by a number of factors. The child’s physical and cultural 
heritage comes from the same persons, and physical and social 
growing up go on side by side. Human learning occurs slowly; 
animal learning is more dramatic. There are also at least two 
psychological clues to the over-emphasis upon biological factors. 
Education necessarily involves more or less conflict between 
teacher and learner. Parents and teachers are almost certain to 
experience some guilt when they behave aggressively towards 
cliildren; so they tend to welcome any generalization that denies 
the significance of hostflity in the process of personality formation. 
The theory that personaUty is merely the maturation of biological 
tendencies provides elders with a convenient rationaUzation. If a 
child will indeed become what he is destined to become on the 
basis of his genetic constitution, then one needs only to provide 
him with the simple physical necessities. If a child does not turn 
out to be as capable or attractive as one parent thinks he should be 
on the basis of the ‘good blood’ on that parent’s side of the 
family, the theory can always be vindicated by blaming the 

Granted that personaHty is largely a product of learning and 
that much of the learning is culturally determined and controlled. 



it should be pointed out that there are two kinds of cultural 
learning: technical and regulatory. Learning the multipHcation 
tables is technical, whereas the learning of manners {e.g., in our 
society, not to spit indiscriminately) is regulatory. In neither case 
does the child have to learn everything for himself; he is given 
the answers. Both of these types of education are socially desirable 
and necessary to the individual, although he is certain to resist 
them to some extent. The one type is intended to make the indi- 
vidual productive, socially useful, to increase the group’s wealth 
and strength. The other type of education is intended to reduce 
the nuisance value of the individual witliin the group as much as 
possible, to keep him from disturbing others, creating in-group 
disharmony, etc. In tliis connexion it is noteworthy that common 
speech makes tliis distinction in the two connotations of the word 
‘good’ when used as an attribute for a person. A person is said to 
be ‘good’ either in the sense of being morally and socially 
amenable, or he is ‘good’ in the sense of being unusually skilful, 
accomplished, etc. 

In our society the school is traditionally appointed for the 
development of teclinological training, the home and church for 
regulatory training. However, there is considerable overlapping, 
the home teaching some techniques and the school also teaching 
certain morals and manners. 

There are certain limitations both as to how far and how rapidly 
technical and regulatory learning can proceed. The physical 
structure and organization of each human organism determines 
the limits ; the physical maturity and the amount of prior learn- 
ing determines the rate. For example, the child canndt acquire 
the skill of walking until the necessary coimexions between nerve 
tracts are completed. Instruction learning cannot occur to a very 
marked extent until language has developed. Each stage or age 
has its own special and characteristic tasks. Both the age limits 
and the tasks vary greatly in different cultures, but everywhere 
development is by steps, stages, degrees. One level of adjust- 
ment is attained only to be superseded by another and another. 
This is very expheit in many non-Uterate societies, but the extent 
to wliich school grades and, in adult life, lodges and clubs carry 



out this same segmentation in our own society must not be over- 
looked. To some extent this means that any adult personahty is 
a succession of habit strata, even though the organizing principles 
of the personality probably achieve rather early a relative fixity 
which makes for continuity. Only in earhcst infancy does a child 
appear to behave in a haphazard mamier. Soon he seems to have 
a personality policy which, albeit in disguised forms, often supplies 
the directional trends for liis whole Hfe. 

In other words, the adult personality' is an architectural inte- 
gration. There are integrating principles, but there are also various 
levels and areas that are more and less central to the structure as a 
whole. If we study a personality by levels we see how charac- 
teristic responses of one degree of complexity supersede or dis- 
guise any direct manifestation of reactions that are typical at a 
different degree of complexity. The same personality responds 
to different situations with differences which are sometimes very 
dramatic. Every personality is capable of more than one mode 
of expression. The particular mode depends upon the total 
psychological field and upon cultural phrasings. If one reaches 
for an object the movement of one’s hand is steered by its per- 
ceived position in perceived surroundings. Likewise, personality 
manifestations arc regulated, in part, by the person’s perception 
of himself and others within the cultural setting. 

It is descriptively convenient to speak of nuclear and peri- 
pheral regions of personahty. Changes in the nuclear region, 
though sometimes trivial in themselves, always modify the per- 
sonality policy and are necessarily of the either-or variety. 
Changes in the peripheral region may be purely quantitative and 
may occur without altering other personahty traits. The major 
stages (oral, anal, genital) require nuclear changes, but together 
with these are those more superficial adaptations to status and role 
which every culture expects of persons of a given age, sex, and 
office. In most cases the periphery is where there is relative free- 
dom to make adjustments. There is always the question of intcr- 
relationsliip, of what the peripheral adjustments mean to the less 
yielding nucleus. Cultures have precisely this same architectural 



The sequence of development, or personality growth, is not 
wholly spontaneous or self-determined. Most stages or aspects of 
stages will persist just precisely so long as they work for the 
organism. There will be as much continuity in any individuars 
hfe as there is serviceability in his value system. The child goes on 
as long as his private variant of the cultural value system works. 
But when his environment demands change to obtain satisfaction 
he will change. Thus personality growth is rather a product of 
the continuous and often tempestuous interaction of the maturing 
child and his older, more powerful mentors, upon whom falls 
the responsibility of transmitting the culture and who in so doing 
convert him into a particular kind of human being. 

The fact that personality development must proceed in this 
way carries with it two important complications. It means that 
education must be a prolonged process, costly from the point of 
view of both time and effort. It predisposes the individual to 
regression — i.c., to a return to an earUer stage of adjustment if 
difficulty is encountered in a later stage. Since permitting an infant 
or child to make an adjustment on a lower level means that he 
becomes more or less ‘fixated’ at this level, and since this develop- 
ment by successive ‘fixations’ predisposes him to the danger of 
regression, it might seem reasonable to try to circumvent both 
of these complications by not allowing any fixations to occur. 
Why should we not teach the child the ultimately correct type 
of behaviour from the very outset, or, when this is patently im- 
possible, allow him to learn nothing until he becomes capable of 
learning precisely what will be ultimately expected of him as an 
adult member of society? 

No one has seriously advocated this sort of short-circuiting of 
the educational process in the technical sphere. Children have 
not been expected to do calculus without first having learned 
simple arithmetic. But in the realm of regulatory education 
serious attempts have been made to make children conform from 
the very outset of their Hves to the demands for renunciation 
which will ultimately be made of them as adults — in the spheres, 
notably, of sex, cleanUness, and respect for property. For reasons 
not yet fully understood, it appears that fewer maladjusted indi- 



viduals will result if certain infantile impulses are allowed to run 
their course. Indulgence and reassurance during the period when 
the oral drive is strong seem to be the best guarantees that the 
individual will later be able to restrict the pleasures of the mouth 
willingly and without distortion. To attain basic security the 
infant needs to be safe both from the physical world (supported) 
and from the cultural world (excused). Certain forms of learn- 
ing can be achieved with less injury after language has been 
acquired. Without speech the infant has to learn by trial and 
error and by conditioning. With speech he can profit from in- 
struction. When one type of activity is forbidden the child can 
be told how to achieve his goal by a different type of behaviour. 
Speech itself has to develop in the slow, primitive fashion, but, 
once it is acquired, other learning is greatly speeded. 

The customary turns of phrase used to bring a cliild into line 
bear a relationsloip to the typical forms of adult character. Some- 
times, as in our own society at present, the dominant tendency is 
for parents to assume full responsibility in the eyes of the child 
and to emphasize a sharp line between ‘right’ and ‘wrong/ 
“Do it because I say it is right.” “Do it because I say so.” “Do 
it because I am your father, and cliildren must obey their parents.” 
“Don’t do it because it is nasty.” “Do it or I won’t buy you any 
candy.” “If you aren’t a good Httle boy, Mamma will be un- 
happy” — or even “If you aren’t a good httle boy, Mamma 
won’t love you.” Wliile the threat of shaming (“If you wet your 
trousers people will make fun of you”), wloich is the primary 
instrument of sociaKzation in many primitive societies, is also 
used by Americans, most sociaUzation after the verbal period is 
built round the threat of withdrawal of parental love and protec- 
tion. This can give the child a sense of unworthiness wi):h Hfc- 
long consequences. The fear of not measuring up is with many 
Americans a principal driving force. A persistent need is felt to 
show the parents that, after all, the child was capable of construc- 
tive achievements. 

This tendency is reinforced by other cultural goals. Parents 
try to make their children ‘better’ than they; they become ‘ambi- 
tious for their children,’ want their children to accomplish what 




they did not. Parents are under social pressure and are judged 
by their children. They compete with each other through their 
children, not having security enough themselves to resist this 
pressure. By pressing their children for renunciation and accom- 
plishment they can ease their own anxieties. 

Having chafed in their lowly positions, many lower- and 
lower-middle-class parents are eager to see their cliildren ‘rise.’ 
But this involves postponement and renunciation, which can be 
learned and made a stable part of one’s character only if, from 
early childhood on, the individual has continuous opportunities 
to experience the advantages of working and waiting. And, if 
parents are economically unable to give their children this kind 
of training — compensation for renunciation and enhanced reward 
for postponement — their efforts are almost certainly doomed to 
failure. Physical punishment for indolence and indulgence, if 
not conjoined with experienced gains and advantages, will not 
ordinarily accompHsh the 'desired end. Because of the inabiUty of 
under-privileged parents to keep their children from experiencing 
want, such children tend to develop precocious sclf-sufiiciency 
and emotional detachment. Why, after all, should a child remain 
dependent upon and obedient to parents who have not really 
supported and protected him? When the child thus becomes 
prematurely independent, socialization is ordinarily at an end. 
And when this emancipation is accompanied by feelings of deep 
hostihty and resentment towards the parents, the stage is set for a 
criminal career. 

In order to be socially well adjusted, an individual must not be 
too shortsightedly selfish, too headlong in his pursuit of comfort 
and pleasure; but there is hkewise a Umit to which a person can 
profitably take the ‘unselfish’ view. An other-worldly orienta- 
tion, for example, demands that mundane existence should consist 
solely of obeclience, sacrifice, charity, self-denial, and austerity. 
People who can attain and sustain this mode of life are often nice 
to have about; some of them make few demands on others and 
render much assistance and help. But if the criminal, or under- 
socialized type of individual, may be said to exploit society, surely 
it is equally true that society exploits many of the over-socialized, 



too conscientious, too moral and self-denying. Modern psychia- 
trists all tell us that human beings, if they are to remain emo- 
tionally healthy, must have fun. The attempt to make the indi- 
vidual take an excessively long-term view of his Hfe is itself a 
shortsighted social policy wliich must be dearly paid for in the 

Two common observations concerning the behaviour of indi- 
viduals in our culture become inteUigible from this perspective 
on punishment, anxiety, and conscience. Why should it be that 
human beings commonly accept punishment for a misdeed as 
‘just,’ with no remonstrance whatsoever? The explanation is 
complex, resting partly on our Christian background and on the 
mutually reinforcing system of our cultural norms and sociaHza- 
tion process. The peculiarity of the North European tradition 
must be realized. The ^emphasis upon the importance of moral 
choice’ is not, as we too readily assume, a universal human trait, 
for, as Margaret Mead points out: 

Comparative studies . . . demonstrate that this type of character 
in which the individual is reared to ask first not “Do I want it?” 
or “Am I afraid?” or “Is this custom?” but “Is this right or wrong?” 
is a very special development, characteristic of our own culture and 
of a very few other societies. It is dependent upon the parents’ per- 
sonally administering the culture in moral terms, standing to the 
child as responsible representatives of right choices, and punishing 
or rewarding the child in the name of the Right. 

Americans also sometimes voluntarily ‘confess’ to sins wliich 
might never have been discovered, or they may even do certain 
forbidden acts quite openly, apparently for no other reason than 
with the hope of being punished. On the basis of these and simi- 
lar observations, clinicians have sometimes posited a ‘need for 
punishment’ or a ‘masochistic instinct.’ An alternative and 
simpler postulate is that ‘guilty’ persons willingly accept or even 
solicit punishment because this is the only means by which their 
conscience-anxiety can be reduced or eliminated. If punishment 
always coincided with the occurrence of a misdeed, then once a 
deed had been committed without punishment there would be 
no need to feel guilty and no need for punishment. 



Many fascinating problems lie in this sphere. What, for 
example, is the relation between conscience and the 'reaHty 
principle’ — /.e., learning to postpone immediate gratification for 
greater ultimate satisfaction.? Again one sees the ultimate in this 
principle in the concept of reward after death. Here, as in the 
case of the renunciatory type of personahty maximized by early 
and medieval Christianity, earthly pleasures are postponed in- 
definitely. This is an extension of a general habit that is learned 
and rewarded during the course of life proper. Heaven becomes 
a place in which happiness is safe. On the earth it is dangerous to 
be happy. The problem is whether thinking of this kind would 
arise if punishments were not often postponed so that one would 
not know when one was safe (‘guiltless’) and when one was not. 

Another puzzhng question exists as to precisely what the rela- 
tion is between guilt and aggression. Depression and related guilt- 
states are often referred to as ‘aggression turned inward.’ Does 
this mean merely that the aggression caused by a frustrated 
impulse is in turn inhibited by anxiety and that the person feels 
anxiety instead of aggression? 

Fenichel has written at length on what may be called the 
psychology of apology, taking the position that apologizing is a 
common and, in many cases, a socially acceptable way of reducing 
guilt. In making an apology one punishes oneself in a certain 
sense, and thereby prevents the other person from doing so. This 
dynamism would seem to give a clue to excessive deference and 
obsequiousness as the habitual strategies of a personality. 

That human beings, as a result of their social experiences during 
and after cliildhood, sometimes develop a relatively complete 
and stable form of asceticism, may seem to constitute a psycho- 
logical dilemma. Experimentation with lower animals has con- 
sistently indicated that unless a given act, or habit, is at least 
occasionally rewarded, it will eventually deteriorate and disappear. 
And it has been similarly demonstrated that in order for rewards 
to have a reinforcing effect upon a particular response they must 
not be postponed long after the occurrence of this response. How, 
then, are we to explain the unremitting toil and steadfastness of 
purpose of those human beings who apparently eschew all worldly 



rewards and satisfactions? It is easy to dismiss this problem, either 
by making an ad, hoc assumption, or by drawing a categorical 
distinction between the psychological laws which govern man 
and beast. It is true that human beings have developed symbohe 
processes to a far greater extent than have any of the lower 
animals and that this fact sets man apart in certain important 
respects. However, there is a simpler explanation. It is known 
that, for those animals high enough in the evolutionary scale to 
experience anxiety, a reduction in this disagreeable state of affairs 
is highly rewarding and will sustain even the most difficult habits 
for a surprisingly long time. Although the exact relationship 
between anxiety and the moral sense in man has not as yet been 
clarified, it is generally acknowledged that a relationship does 
exist. Freud, for example, has said that “our conscience is not 
the inflexible judge that ethical teachers are wont to declare it, 
but in its origin is ‘dread of the community' and nothing else." 

From these premises it is an easy step to the conclusion that 
those individuals whose fives and work are ostensibly devoid of 
reward in the usual sense of the term are nevertheless reinforced 
and sustained by the gratification that comes from reduction of 
conscience-anxiety, or guilt. Nicias, the Epicurean philosopher 
in Thais, expresses this conception with singular clarity when, in 
comparing the motives for his own behaviour with those of the 
abstinent monk, Paphnutius, he says: 

Ah, well, dear friend, in doing these things, which are totally 
different in appearance, we shall both obey the same sentiment, the 
sole motive of all human actions; we shall both of us be seeking a 
common end : happiness, impossible happiness ! 

In this way the apparent contradiction is solved and a naturalistic 
conception of reward is created which is broad enough to include 
both the reinforcing, vivifying effects of sensuous gratification 
and the solace and comfort of a clear conscience. 

Closely related to ‘ moral masochism' is what Freud has called 
“criminality from a sense of guilt." Not infrequently persons 
present themselves for psycho-analytic treatment who, as their 
analysis reveals, have committed, not only trivial transgressions, 



but also such crimes as theft, fraud, and arson. This is a surprising 
observation, for most criminals are not ordinarily neurotic, and 
do not become candidates for analysis. Society may wish to 
change them or they may wish to change society, but they rarely 
wish to change themselves. The answer which Freud has given 
is that the analysis of such persons has 

afforded the surprising conclusion that such deeds are done precisely 
because they are forbidden, and because by carrying them out the 
doer enjoys a sense of mental relief. He suffered from an oppressive 
feeling of guilt, of which he did not know the origin, and after he 
had committed a misdeed the oppression was mitigated. . . . Para- 
doxical as it may sound, I must maintain that the sense of guilt was 
present prior to the transgression, that it did not arise from this, but 
contrariwise — the transgression from the sense of giidt. These per- 
sons we might justifiably describe as criminals from a sense of guilt. 

Tliis analysis of ‘criminality from a sense of guilt ^ carries an 
important warning — namely, that one camaot vahdly diagnose 
personality on the basis of isolated actions, taken out of their 
dynamic context and detached from the meanings they have and 
the ends they serve for the individual actor. Let us suppose that 
three youths, H, B, and C, mount bicycles which do not belong 
to them and ride away without the rightful owners’ knowledge. 
In our society this action, objectively identical in all three cases, 
is a violation of property statutes. But it may be that individual 
A performed the act because he knew that in so doing he would 
be rendering the owner a service of some kind. ~ Since his ‘intent’ 
was not to steal, he would not be legally culpable and could not 
therefore be called a criminal. Individual J3’s motive for taking 
the bicycle may have been, not that he wished to use it or profit 
from its sale, but that by performing this action and allowing it 
to become known, he would humihate his father and perhaps, 
in addition, gratify an unconscious ‘need for punishment.’ Here 
we would say that distinctly neurotic mechanisms were operative. 
Only in the case of individual C, who took the bicycle for the 
relatively uncomplicated reason that he consciously wanted it 
more than he feared the consequences of taking it, can we say 
that a really criminal personahty has been manifested. And even 



this verdict can be reached only if we are sure that C was sufE- 
ciently famiUar with the culture to be aware of the accepted 
rules applying to such a situation. The same kind of inquiry into 
motives, satisfactions, and knowledge must, of course, be made 
before the true significance of acts which are ostensibly ‘normal’ 
or ostensibly ‘neurotic’ can be reliably identified. 

The fact that there is thus no fixed relationsliip between par- 
ticular overt actions and the underlying motives was necessarily 
a hindrance to the development of a sound understanding of per- 
sonahty-structure and dynamics. And, because of the phenome- 
non of repression, even introspection, as we now know, could 
not be safely relied upon to give a complete picture of one’s 
wishes and inclinations. It is mainly for these reasons that the 
special techniques designed by Freud and his followers for 
investigating the total personaUty, including the unconscious as 
well as the conscious aspects, have proved so revolutionary and 
given us the first really comprehensive psychological system. 

Even if the need for physical and moral sanctuary during child- 
hood be recognized, the practical problems are not solved by a 
policy of leaving the child alone. During infancy the child will 
in any event be developing an ‘attitude towards Hfe’ : confidence, 
resignation, optimism, pessimism. These attitudes will be largely 
determined by the kind and amount of ‘care’ given. The con- 
nexion between child care and personahty has not been fully 
appreciated. But its importance is twofold: it is useful in helping 
the child develop basic abilities which will be later useful when 
indulgence ends and the child has to venture out on its own; and 
it is especially useful to have positive attitudes towards parents 
and others when regulatory training starts. 

For the emotional pattern towards parents or brothers and 
sisters often becomes the prototype of habitual reactions towards 
friends and associates, employers and employees, leaders and 
deities. In a society where the childhood experience is typically 
that of overstrong but unsatisfied dependency upon the father 
there is a fertile soil for the demagogue. On the other hand, a 
culture like that of the Zufii Indians, where the child’s attachments 
are spread among many relatives and where dependence is focused 



Upon the group as a whole rather than upon particular individuals, 
is pecuharly resistant to leaders of the Hitler type. Where the 
mother is the true centre of family life divinities are apt to be 
portrayed in female form. 

The same patterns for parental treatment of children produce 
different varieties of personaUty, depending upon the inherent 
disposition of the individual child and the responses preferred in 
the culture. If the parents deal many blows to the self-esteem of 
the child he can compensate by an exaggerated, defiant con- 
formity to expectations, by accepting unimportance and depen- 
dence, by egotistic self-inflation. Diferent patterns of behaviour, 
as has been said, often represent the same underlying psychological 
cause. Aggressive and shy individuals may be just different out- 
ward manifestations of a wounded image of the self Wherever 
gratification is denied and adequate rewards or substitute pleasures 
are not provided, the child builds up new sources of adjustment: 
lying, stealing, concealment, distrust, sensitiveness, disbeUef, var)"- 
ing degrees of defiant indulgence in forbidden activities. 

In spite of our patterns of sociahzation some Americans are 
relatively free of anxieties, and relatively free from the need to 
fight. Even if weaning is carried out early, the happy mother who 
is not driven by her own iimer insecurities and compulsions can 
handle the event so that it is more a physiological break and less 
a break in tenderness and association. In this case weaning is un- 
likely to be so momentous as it was with a boy whom Margaret 
Fries studied intensively through a number of his early years : 

The prototype of Jimmie’s reactions to life’s frustrations was to 

be found in his reaction to weaning at five months of age, when he 

became passive, negative, and withdrawn from the world. 

Whereas excessive feelings of guilt tend to arise from too early 
and too energetic measures in habit training, special circum- 
stances play an important role. If the mother has been too well 
trained to react negatively to the smell of her own and others’ 
faeces, she herself will experience active anxiety in the course of 
the bowel training of her children and will probably be driven 
at some points to active aggression against the child. 



In Other societies methods for inhibiting the responses of chil- 
dren which may be either socially objectionable or personally 
dangerous give the parents more ways of avoiding personal 
responsibihty. A greater number of persons, uncles, aunts, and 
other members of the extended family share in the disciplinary 
actions, so that there is a less intense emotional involvement 
between child and one or both parents. The mechanism of 
shaming makes possible some displacement beyond even the 
circle of the family. Dominant rehance upon this technique 
would seem to result in a quite different sort of conformity, 
characterized by ‘shame* (‘T would feel very uncomfortable if 
anybody saw me doing tliis**) rather than * guilt* (‘T am bad 
because I am not Uving up to the standards of my parents**). 
Finally, the sanctions may be placed to greater or lesser extent 
outside the range of all living persons. Supernatural beings (in- 
cluding ghosts) may be the punishing and rewarding agents. 
The clnld is told that misconduct will be punished in accord with 
supernatural laws. Eventually, misfortune or accident overtakes 
the erring child, and his preceptors arc careful to impress upon 
him the comiexion between his misdeeds and his suffering. 
Although this method has certain obvious advantages in pro- 
moting positive adjustments to other people, it also tends to keep 
the individual from coming to grips with the external world. If 
one is at the mercy of more powerful and perhaps capricious 
forces, if one can always blame supernatural agencies instead of 
oneself, one is much less likely to make the effort for realistic 

In our society it must also be noted that it is only in the pre- 
school period that the child is primarily preoccupied with the 
relationship to the members of his own immediate family. The 
school period brings on increasing sociaHzation at the hands of 
teachers, children of the child’s own age-group, and older chil- 
dren. In our culture there is often conflict between parental 
standards and age-group standards. Both the life goals of the 
parents and the means for attaining them may be partially rejected. 
This necessity of dividing behaviour into compartments and of 
otherwise resolving the conflict between expectations greatly 



complicates the socialization of the child in a complex culture, 
such as our own. 

In every culture, however, success or reward is essential to all 
learning. If a response is not rewarded it will not be learned. 
Thus all responses which become habitual are ‘good’ from the 
organism’s point of view ; they necessarily provide some form of 
satisfaction. The ‘badness’ of habits is a judgment that is attached 
to them by other persons — i.e., a habit is ‘bad’ if it annoys another 
person or persons. The great problem of personal adjustment to 
a social environment is that of finding behaviour that is satisfying 
to the individual, and also either satisfying to other persons or at 
least acceptable to them. All men learn the responses that are to 
them motivation-reducing, problem-solving, but one of the 
factors which determines which responses are motivation- 
reducing is the given social tradition. Culture also largely deter- 
mines, of course, which responses other persons will regard as 
‘good’ or as annoying. Learning, as related to motivation, deals 
either with a change in needs or in the means of their satisfaction. 

The common assumption has been that habits are elimmated 
only by punishment — i.e., by making them followed by more 
suffering than satisfaction. It is true that habits can be ‘broken’ 
in this fashion, but this is costly in that the punishing person often 
earns the distrust of the child. There is, however, another 
mechanism utihzed by cultural systems — ^namely, the mechanism 
of extinction. Just as reward is essential to the cstabhshment of a 
habit, so is it essential to its continued function. If the satisfaction 
that an organism usually obtained from a given habitual response 
can be withheld, this habit will eventually disappear. Aggression 
may occur as the first response to non-reward, but if this aggres- 
sion is neither rewarded nor punished it too will soon give way 
to a renewal of exploratory, variable behaviour, from which a 
new habit or adjustment may evolve. 

Although extinction is a valuable device for getting rid of 
objectionable habits, it also operates to eliminate those habits in 
an individual which others may like, or call ‘good,’ if these habits 
are not continually rewarding also to the individual. Thus good 
behaviour, either in the child or in the adult, cannot be taken for 



granted; it must be satisfying to the individual as well as to the 
others. These considerations show the inadequacy of the old 
notion that repetition necessarily makes a habit stronger. We 
now know that habits can be either strengthened or weakened by 
repetition. It is not repetition, as such, but reward that is the 
crucial factor in determining whether a habit will grow or wane 
with repetition. 

The next important fact about the learning process is that just 
as a correct response tends to become more and more strongly 
connected to the drive which it reduces, so does this response 
tend to become connected with any other stimuli which happen 
to be impinging upon the organism at the time the successful 
response occurs. For example, in many societies physical near- 
ness to the mother soon becomes to the child a promise of reward. 
Therefore, any renunciation, such as that involved in toilet train- 
ing, becomes learned much more easily when the mother is 
present. We are inclined to exaggerate the specificity of innate 
responses. We tend to think of nursing behaviour, for example, 
as something automatic. But it isn’t simply a chain of reflexes, 
as anyone who has seen the clumsy and inadequate behaviour of 
a new-born infant realizes. Reflexes are involved, but so are 
other organic conditions and also learning. Thus, if a new-born 
baby is hungry pressure on its cheek will cUcit the response of 
quick turning — which can bring the breast into view. But this 
response can be produced only with great difficulty from a baby 
who has just been fed. 

A culture directs attention to one feature of the stimulus situa- 
tion and gives it a value. In this way the responses to even very 
basic organic drives may be determined as much by cultural 
values and expectations as by internal pressures. As Margaret 
Mead says: 

The evidence of primitive societies suggests that the assumptions 
wliich any culture makes about the degree of frustration or fulfil- 
ment contained in cultural forms may be more important for human 
happiness than which biological drives it chooses to develop, which 
to suppress or leave undeveloped. We may take as an example the 
attitude of the Victorian woman who was not expected to enjoy 



sex experience and who did not enjoy it. She was certainly in no 

degree as frustrated as are those of her descendants who find sex, 

which they had been told they would %nJoy, very unsatisfactory. 

The more energy which a culture channels into the expression of 
certain drives, the less is left, presumably, to go into satisfying 
other drives. Indeed it must be argued that the way in which a 
single drive is satisfied eventually changes the nature of the drive 
itself. The hunger of a Chinese is not precisely identical with the 
hunger of an American. 

The comparative study by anthropologists of child-rearing in 
various cultures has within the last few years had a profound in- 
fluence upon paediatrics. Progressive physicians are more and 
more favouring self-demand as opposed to clock schedules for 
babies. They also see the connexion between cloildrcn who have 
a secure sense that their parents are consistently loving and citizens 
who are responsible and co-operative because they feel that the 
community is concerned with their welfare. The child who can 
build liis character upon the foundation of trust in the consistent 
affection of his parents is less likely to be a suspicious adult, seek- 
ing and finding enemies within his own group and in other 
nations. His conscience is more hkely to be steady and reahstic 
rather than ever fcar-inspiritig and threatening. A stable world- 
order that takes account of new, wider, and more complex rela- 
tionships can be founded only upon individual personalities that 
are emotionally free and mature. So long as leaders and masses 
are unable to tolerate types of integrity different from their own, 
differences will be reacted to as invitations to aggression. Dema- 
gogues and dictators flourish where personal insecurity is at a 

The modem mother who reduces contact with the child to a 
minimum and maintains a highly impersonal relation to it is 
depriving herself of a type of experience which it is hard to equal 
in other ways. (The experience of many non-hterate societies 
where the mother’s first obhgation is to the child during its first 
two years of life suggests that the investment pays good dividends 
to the mother in the long run both in ensuring later loyalty and 


20 $ 

emotional support and in the creative satisfaction of producing 
happy, productive children, j 

While the dangers of a ‘child-centred’ culture in the sense that 
only the needs and interest of infants and children are recognized 
must be freely admitted, the question must not be distorted into 
an all-or-none dilemma. Surely children must come to reahze 
that there are other people in the world, and that there is intense 
competition for gratifications. The sensible questions, however, 
are : When? and. How suddenly or how gradually? The competi- 
tive emphases of our culture reinforce the patterns of haste in 
demanding renunciation in the spheres of weaning, cleanliness 
training, sex-tabooing, and aggression control. The justifications 
put forward for our present customs of socialization seem largely 
rationalizations. For example, the assumption is widespread that 
if a child is fed or otherwise cared for irregularly it will ‘ruin his 
health.’ But primitive children may be nursed and fed whenever 
they cry, with no indications of ill effects. Other young mammals 
are similarly treated by their mothers and probably have fewer 
digestive disturbances than do scheduled babies, who are hkely 
to become over-hungry and then over-eat. 

It is also commonly believed that any latitude in the matter of 
sleeping will be similarly ruinous to the child’s physical well- 
being, but, if the child sleeps only after a period of crying and 
restlessness, sleep may acquire for Ihm a Hfelong comiotation of 
anxiety. Moreover, in the case of somewhat older children, the 
most obvious net consequence of a rigidly fixed nimiber of hours 
in bed is that the child has many wakeful periods when it is alone, 
without social support — a situation favourable to the developTr 
ment of anxiety fantasies. How many children are really put to 
bed to get rid of them? How many intuitively reahze this? 

Nor are these problems of child rearing indifferent to the press- 
ing issues of our contemporary world. One, though only one, of 
the causes of war is the inhibited aggression engendered by the 
sociahzation process. Anger, openly expressed towards parents 
and other elders, does not ordinarily work very well. It is there- 
fore repressed, providing a canker of hate and resentment that 
may release its energy in fighting the battles of a group, a social 



class, or a nation. Insecurity, suspicion, and intolerance may like- 
wise have their roots in childhood experience. As Cora DuBois 

The inconsistent and restrictive quality of discipline which per- 
vades the child’s life might well be expected to breed in it a sense 
of insecurity and suspicious distrust. It has at its disposal only one 
weapon with which to meet frustration and that is rage. The alterna- 
tive idea of being good in order to gain one’s ends is not presented 
to the child. But that rage is an ineffectual weapon is learned at very 
latest during the first decade of life. 

When, as a result of competition between two individuals for 
the same goal, one individual assaults the other, such action is 
commonly termed a crime. When the competition is between 
different social classes, minorities, or the like, the resulting 
antagonisms are likely to be called prejudice or persecution. And 
when the competition is between nations, the resulting aggres- 
sions and counter-aggressions are, of course, known as war. No 
effective way of dealing with international competition and 
aggression has yet been devised, nor is one Hkely to be so long as 
repression and retaHation remain the standard devices for dealing 
with the aggressions of individuals or minority elements within 
the group. It is true that a certain transitory success can be won in 
inhibiting aggression by means of punishment, but this is not a 
basic solution to the problem. Intimidation and subjugation, 
while producing temporary outward conformity, merely increase 
the amount of pent-up resentment and hostiUty, which will erupt 
sooner or later, either as direct counter-aggression against the 
subjugator, or as displaced aggression, or in some other irrational 
form of behaviour. 

Some sources of insecurity arise from national and international 
economic and poHtical disorder. These sources and those arising 
from sociahzation are more closely intertwined than might appear 
at first glance. As long as the aggressions of children and of indi- 
vidual adults are met primarily by retaHation, this will remain the 
dominant pattern for dealing with inter-class, inter-racial, and 
international aggressions. Likewise, so long as no security exists 
for nations, just so long wiU insecurity and frustration exist for 



the individuals comprising those nations. The sources of personal 
and of social disorganization are fundamentally the same and 
inextricably interrelated. In our American culture we must 
compete fiercely with each other and yet outwardly remain the 
best of friends. If inter-group aggressions within a nation become 
so serious that there is danger of disruption, war, by displacing 
aggression against another group, is an adjustive response from 
the point of view of preserving national cohesion. 

The ideal of the gentle man and the gentle woman can never 
be fully realized without a world order which provides for safety 
and hberty of gentle nations. Retaliation and passive acceptance 
of aggression are not the only two alternatives for nations any 
more than they are for children. Nations, like children, need to 
be sociaUzed. By parallel, an extension of dependency among 
nations would seem to be the right direction in wliich to move. 
In so far as nations recognized their mutual interdependence they 
would be willing to submit to the renunciations which sociaHza- 
tion inevitably involves, hi individuals all character is a kind of 
delayed obedience. Most people behave socially to the extent 
that only a small part of the population has to act as a police force. 
So also the international police force could be small if inter- 
national dependence were systematically cultivated. This pre- 
supposes a division of economic resources and tasks. The ideal 
of self-sufficiency, whether in the personal or political sphere, has 
important Umitations which should be clearly recognized and 
ev^uated. The principle of ‘collective security,’ through which 
the group makes itself stronger than any single individual (person 
or nation), and is thereby able to provide protection for even the 
weakest member of the group, is the prime condition for curtail- 
ing the need for individual aggression. 

A theory of personality is simply a set of presuppositions about 
‘human nature.’ Emphasis must be laid — because of the findings 
of psycho-analysis, anthropology, and the psychology of learning 
— upon human potentialities. Nothing can be further from the 
truth than the shibboleth that ‘human nature is unalterable,’ if 
by human nature is meant the specific form and content of 



personality. Any theory of personality which rests upon such a basis 
is necessarily weak, for personahty is pre-eininently a social 
product and human society is ever on the march. Especially at 
the present moment do new and momentous changes in inter- 
national organization seem imminent whose implications for 
individual personality can be seen but vaguely. 

An absolute, culture-bound view of human nature not only 
holds no conception of what future developments may be, but 
actively stands in the way of those efforts that can be rationally 
made to hasten the reaHzation of possible levels of personal, social, 
and international integration. It is true that among all peoples 
habit and custom die hard. The millennium will not come sud- 
denly. Nevertheless, as men of all nations struggle to adjust 
themselves to the new demands of the international situation, 
they steadily modify their conceptions of themselves and of 
others. Slowly but surely a new social order and new personaUty- 
trends will emerge in the process. 

Each culture must build upon what it has — its special symbols 
for arousing emotional responses, its distinctive compensations 
for the deprivations imposed by cultural standardization, its pecu- 
Har values which justify to the individual his surrender of a 
measure of his impulse hfe to cultural control. Gregory Bateson 
has well written ; 

If the Balinese is kept busy and happy by a nameless, shapeless 
fear, not located in space or time, we might be kept on our toes by a 
nameless, shapeless unlocatcd hope of enormous achievement. We 
have to be like those few artists and scientists who work with this 
urgent sort of inspiration, that urgency that comes from feeling that 
great discovery or great creation (the perfect sonnet) is always just 
beyond our reach or like the mother of a child who feels that, pro- 
vided she pay constant enough attention, there is a real hope that 
her child may be that infinitely rare phenomenon, a great and happy 



Suppose that archaeologists five hundred years hence were to 
excavate the ruins of settlements of various sizes in Europe, in 
America, in AustraUa, and in other regions. They would prob- 
ably conclude that American culture was a variant of a culture of 
world-wide occurrence, distinguished by elaboration of gadgets 
and especially by the extent to which these were available to all 
sorts and conditions of men. Careful studies of distribution and 
diffusion would indicate that the bases of this civilization had been 
developed in Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. The 
shrewd archaeologist would, however, infer that twentieth- 
century American culture was no longer colonial. He would see 
that distinctive features in the physical environment of the 
United States had made themselves perceptible in the warp of the 
American cultural fabric and that large-scale cultural hybridiza- 
tion and native inventions were continuing to produce a new 
texture and new patterns in the weft. 

Unfortunately, the social anthropologist of to-day cannot 
develop this picture much further and remain in the realm of 
demonstrated fact. The anthropological study of American com- 
munities was initiated in Middletown (1928) and Middletown in 
Transition (1937). Since then we have had a series of mono- 
graphs on Yankee City; two books on Southerntown; Plainville, 
U.S,A,; brief studies of six different communities by the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture; Margaret Mead’s popular book And keep 
Your Powder Dry ; and a score of scattered papers as well. Recently 
Warner and Havighurst have published a study of class structure 
and education, Who shall be educated? Walter Goldschmidt has 
O 209 



given US As You sow, a report on California agricultural com- 
munities; and the publications on a Middle Western town, 
Jonesville, U,S.A., have begun to appear. Yet contrast this total 
"handful with the countless valuable volumes that have been pub- 
hshed on the history, government, geography, and economy of 
the United States. Of this culture in the anthropological sense 
we know less than of Eskimo culture. 

This book has thus far rested on well-documented data and on 
theory that has proved its predictive power. In treating American 
culture one must resort to an analysis that goes only a shade 
beyond impressionism. There is the special danger, considering 
the small quantity of recent field work, of describing American 
culture more as it has been than as it is. Yet a sketch of charac- 
teristic thought-patterns, values, and assumptions may help us a 
little to understand ourselves and thus to understand other peoples 
better. One can assemble points of agreement in the anthro- 
pological studies that have been made, in the testimony of astute 
European and Asiatic observers, in personal observations. This 
has been a business civilization — not a miHtary, ecclesiastical, or 
scholarly one. The brevity of our national history has made for 
this dominance of the economic as well as for the stress upon the 
potential as opposed to the actual society. Lacking the inertia of 
a deeply rooted culture pattern and given the high standard of 
living, American customs have changed rapidly under the in- 
fluence of cars, radio, and moving pictures. There are many 
culture traits which are too obvious to require a massing of evi- 
dence: love of physical comfort, a cult of bodily cleanHness, 
finance, capitahsm. Certain values, such as fair play and tolerance, 
are generally agreed to, but represent modifications of our British 
heritage rather than anytliing distinctively American. Rather 
than cataloguing traits exhaustively, however, this chapter will 
treat selectively some related traits that appear best to bring out 
the underlying organization of the culture. 

American culture has been called a culture of paradoxes. 
Nevertheless national advertising and a national moving-picture 
industry would be impossible were there not certain terms in 


which one can appeal to the vast majority of this capturable 
people. Though sectional, economic, and religious differences 
are highly significant in some respects, there are certain themes 
that transcend these variations. Some life-goals, some basic atti- 
tudes tend to be shared by Americans of every region and of all 
social classes. 

To start with the commonplace: even the most bitter critics 
of the United States have conceded us material generosity. In 
spite of the romanticism of ‘public-spirited disinterestedness' 
most Americans arc generous and genuinely benevolent. Some- 
times, to be sure, American humanitarianism is linked with the 
missionary spirit — the determination to help others by remaking 
the world on the American model. 

Perhaps no huge society has ever had such generalized patterns 
for laughter. In older civilizations it is commonly the case that 
jokes are fully understood and appreciated only by class or 
regional groups. It is true that it is some distance from the 
sophisticated humour of The New Yorker to the slapstick of popu- 
lar radio programmes. But the most widespread formulas reach 
all Americans. Some of the most characteristic of these are related 
to the cult of the average man. No one becomes so great that we 
camaot make fun of him. Humour is an important sanction in 
American culture. Probably the ridicule of Hitler did more than 
all the rational critiques of Nazi ideology to make the man in the 
street contemptuous of Nazism. 

All European travellers are struck by American attitudes 
towards women. They often note that “Americans spoil their 
women," or that “America is dominated by petticoats." The 
truth is more complicated. On the one hand, it is clear that a 
very large number of American women of privileged economic 
position are freed by labour-saving devices from much household 
drudgery — particularly after their few children have entered 
school. Their abundant leisure goes into women’s clubs, com- 
munity activities, ‘cultural’ organizations, unhealthy devotion to 
their children, other mildly or seriously neurotic activities. It is 
also true that many American men are so wrapped up in pursuit 
of success that they largely abdicate control over their children’s 



Upbringing to their wives. The responsibiHty of American 
women for moral and cultural questions is tremendous. On the 
other hand, it is too often forgotten that in 1940 twenty-six out 
of every hundred women of working age worked outside the 
home, that almost every girl who graduates from high school or 
college has had some job training. We interest women in careers 
but make it difficult for them to attain a full life in one. In a 
culture where ‘prestige’ is everything we have felt it necessary to 
set aside Mother’s Day as a symbolic atonement for the lack of 
recognition ordinarily given to domestic duties. 

In Japan a year ago Japanese of many classes complained to me 
that it was difficult to understand American democracy because 
Americans seemed to lack an explicit ideology that they could 
communicate. The Japanese contrasted the Russians who could 
immediately give a coherent account of their system of beliefs. 
Various Americans have remarked that what the United States 
needed more than a good five-cent cigar was a good five-cent 
ideology. Such explicit ideology as we have derives largely from 
the political radicalism of the late eighteenth century. We repeat 
the old words, and some of the ideas are as alive now as then. But 
much of this doctrine is dated, and a new latent ideology inherent 
in our actual sentiments and habits is waiting for popular 

Particularly since the drastic disillusionment that followed the 
fine Wilsonian phrases of the First World War, Americans have 
been shy of expressing their deepest convictions and have been 
verbally cynical about Fourth of July oratory. Yet devotion 
to the American Way has been none the less passionate. It is 
significant that airmen in tins past war who were under nar- 
cotics in the course of psychotherapy would not only talk 
freely about personal emotional problems but were equally 
articulate on the ideological reasons for American participation 
in the war. 

The pattern of the impHcit American creed seems to embrace 
the following recurrent elements : faith in the rational, a need for 
moralistic rationahzation, an optimistic conviction that rational 
effort counts, romantic individualism and the cult of the common 


man, high valuation of change — wliich is ordinarily taken to 
mean ‘progress’ — the conscious quest for pleasure. 

Mysticism and supematuraUsm have been very minor themes 
in American life. Our glorification of science and our faith in 
what can be accomplished through education are two striking 
aspects of our generalized conviction that secular, humanistic 
effort will improve the world in a series of changes, all or mainly 
for the better. We further tend to believe that morality and reason 
must coincide. Fatalism is generally repudiated, and even accep- 
tance seems to be uncongenial — though given lip service in accord 
with Christian doctrine. 

The dominant American political philosophy has been that the 
common man would think and act rationally. The same premises 
are apparent in typical attitudes towards parental responsibility. 
The individual, if ‘let alone’ and not ‘corrupted by bad com- 
pany, ’ will be reasonable. If a child does not turn out well the 
mother or both parents tend to blame themselves or to explain 
the failure by ‘bad blood’ — as if action-guided-by-reason could 
of itself always produce well-adjusted children when the biological 
inheritance was adequate. 

While many Americans are in some senses profoundly hreH- 
gious, typically they still find it necessary to provide moral justifi- 
cations for their personal and national acts. No people moralizes 
as much as we do. The actual pursuit of power, prestige, and 
pleasure for their own sakes must be disguised (if public approval 
is to be obtained) as action for a moral purpose or as later justified 
by ‘good works.’ Conversely, a contemplative life tends to be 
considered ‘idleness.’ 

The American mother offers her love to her child on the condi- 
tion of his fulfilling certain performance standards. No conversa- 
tional bromides are more characteristically American than “Let’s 
get going”; “Do something’*; “Something can be done about 
it.” Although during the tliirtics there was widespread devalua- 
tion of present and future, and though pessimism and apathy 
about the atomic bomb and other international problems are 
certainly strong currents in contemporary national thinking, the 
dominant American reaction is still — against the perspective of 



Other cultures — that this is a world in which effort triumphs. A 
recent public-opinion study showed that only 32 per cent, of 
Americans were concerned about social security — for themselves. 

Countless European observers have been impressed by ‘en- 
thusiasm’ as a typically American quality. During the war mili- 
tary analysts noted repeatedly that the British were better at 
holding a position but the Americans at taking one. As Margaret 
Mead has observed, the British cope with a problem; Americans 
start from scratch and build completely anew. 

Americans arc not merely optimistic believers that ‘work 
counts.’ Their creed insists that anyone, anywhere in the social 
structure, can and should ‘make the effort.’ Moreover, they like 
to think of the world as man-controlled. This view about the 
nature of Hfe is thus intimately linked with that conception of the 
individual’s place in society which may be called ‘romantic 

In the English-speaking world there are two principal ideolo- 
gies of individualism. ' The Enghsh variety (which may be labelled 
with the name of Cobden) is capitaUstic in its basic outlook. 
American individualism has agrarian roots and may be associated 
with Jefferson. To this day Americans hate ‘being told what to 
do.’ They have always distrusted strong government. The 
social roles most frequently jibed at in comic strips are those that 
interfere with the freedom of others : the dog-catcher, the truant 
officer, the female social climber (Mrs Jiggs) who forces her hus- 
band and family to give up their habitual satisfactions. ‘My 
rights’ is one of the commonest phrases in the American language. 
This historically conditioned attitude towards authority is con- 
stantly reinforced by child-training patterns. The son must ‘go 
farther’ than his father, and revolt against the father in adolescence 
is expected. 

However, as de Tocqueville pointed out, ' Americans are 
characteristically more interested in equaUty than in Hberty. “I’m 
as good as the next man,” seems at first a contradiction of the 
American emphasis upon success and individual achievement 
within a competitive system. It is true that there are relatively few 
places at the top in a social pyramid — at any one time. But the 


American faith that ‘there is always another chance’ has its basis 
in the historical facts of social mobiHty and the fluidity (at least 
in the past) of our economic structure. “If at first you don’t 
succeed, try, try again.” The American also feels that if he him- 
self does not ‘ get a break,’ he has a prospect for vicarious achieve- 
ment through his children. 

American individualism centres upon the dramatization of the 
individual. This is reflected in the tendency to personaUze achieve- 
ment, good or bad. Americans prefer to attack men rather than 
issues. Corporations arc personified. PubHc power projects 
were advertised as much as a means of beating the Utility Devil 
as a way of getting better and cheaper service. 

The less opportunity the greater the merit of success. ‘You 
can’t keep a good man down.’ Conversely, failure is a cohTession 
of weakness, and status distinctions and even class lines are 
rationalized on such grounds as, “he got there by hard work,” 
“it’s his own fault that he didn’t get on.” Such attitudes — and 
the ideahzation of the ‘tough guy’ and the ‘red-blooded Ameri- 
can’ and the fear of ‘being a sucker’ — derive both from the 
Puritan ethic and from the American pioneer era. Aggressive 
activity and rapid mobility were effectual in the rapid develop- 
ment of a new country, and it made sense then that the rewrads 
in money and status should be high. 

The worship of success has gone further than in any known 
culture, save possibly pre-war Japan. This is reflected in count- 
less staple phrases such as “bettering yourself,” “getting ahead,” 
and “How are you getting on?” The opposition to Roosevelt’s 
proposal for a taxation programme that would limit net income 
to 25,000 dollars attests to the depth of feeling for slogans hke 
“The sky’s the limit.” But the striving for money is not simply 
the pursuit of purposeless materialism. Money is primarily a 
symbol. The deeper competition is for power and prestige. 
‘Aggressive’ is, in American culture, a descriptive adjective of 
high praise when appHed to an individual’s personality or 
character. “You have to be aggressive to be a success.” The 
obvious crudities of aggression are, as Lynd says, explained away 
by identifying them with the common good. 



But there is a defensive note in this aggressiveness which is also 
symptomatic. Competitive aggressiveness against one’s fellows is 
not just playing a part in a drama. The only way to be safe in 
American life is to be a success. Failure to ‘measure up’ is felt as 
deep personal inadequacy. In a phrase, ’the American creed is 
equality of opportunity, not equality of man. 

The cult of the average man might seem to imply disapproval 
of outstanding individuals of every sort. Certainly it is true that 
a great deal of hostility is directed upward. However, under the 
influence of the dramatic and success aspects of the ‘romantic 
individualism’ orientation, the typical attitude towards leaders 
may best be described as one of mixed feelings. On the one hand, 
there is a tendency to snipe at superior individuals with a view to 
reducing them to the level of their fellows. On the other hand, 
their very success is a dramatic vindication of the American way 
of Ufe and an invitation to identification and emulation. 

The cult of the average man means conformity to the standards 
of the current majority. To de Tocqueville this was “enfeeble- 
ment of the individual.” A more recent observer, Fromm, who 
also looked at the American scene from a European viewpoint, 
likewise finds this conformity repressive to self-expression. But 
he fails to sec that the American is not a passive automaton sub- 
mitting to cultural compulsives hke European provincials. The 
American voluntarily and consciously seeks to be like others of 
his age and sex — without in any way becoming an anonymous 
atom in the social molecule. On the contrary, all the devices of 
the society are mobilized to make glamorous the individual 
woman and to dramatize every achievement of men and women 
that is unusual — but still within the range of approved aspirations 
of the conforming majority. ‘Miss America’ and ‘the typical 
American mother’ are widely publicized each year, but an an- 
nounced atheist (no matter of what brilliance and accomplish- 
ment) cannot be elected President. 

American devotion to the underdog must be linked to this atti- 
tude. As Lynd points out, we worsliip bigness, yet we idealize 
‘the little man.’ ‘Grousing’ is a characteristic American trait, but 
the grousing of American soldiers against the officer caste system 


is to be understood in terms of American egalitarian notions and 
especially of the cult of the average man. The fact that officers 
and enlisted men did not have equal access to various facilities 
for recreation and transportation enraged what were felt to be 
the most basic sentiments in the American code. To some 
extent this aspect of the cult of the* average man doubtless repre- 
sents a refuge for those who fail ‘to rise/ a justification for envy 
of those who do. 

Because of the cult of the average man superficial intimacy is 
easy in America. People of every social class can talk on common 
topics in a way that is not so easy in Europe where life is based 
more on repetition of patterns of early family routines that are 
differentiated by class. However, American friendships tend to 
be casual and transitory. 

Thanks to our expanding economy and to national folklore 
created by various historical accidents, the nineteenth-century 
faith in ‘progress’ became entrenched in the United States as 
nowhere else. As Lovejoy and Boas have pointed out, America’s 
golden age has been located mainly in the future rather than in 
the past. To some extent, to be sure, the future has been brought 
into the present by instalment-plan buying, the philosophy of 
‘spend, don’t save,’ etc. But the basic underlying notions have 
been made expHcit by Carl Becker: 

By locating perfection in the future and identifying it with the 
successive achievements of mankind, the doctrine of progress makes 
a virtue of novelty and disposes men to welcome change as in itself 
a sufficient validation of their activities. 

Western Europeans and Americans tend to be fundamentally 
different in their attitudes towards conforming. Americans 
believe in conforming only to the standards of one’s own age- 
group, and change-in-time is a strong value; Europeans believe — 
or have beHeved — in conforming to a past society and have found 
security in traditional behaviour; yet conformity to a contem- 
porary society is only incidental and not a value. There are, to 
be sure, wide disparities in American hospitality to change. We 
take pride in material change but are, on the whole, more hostile 



than contemporary Europeans to changes in our institutions (say 
the Constitution or the free enterprise system). In some ways the 
conformity of middle-class Englishmen, for instance, is more rigid 
than that of Americans — but in other ways it is less so. American 
attitudes towards change make generational conflicts more serious. 
These very generational conflicts, however, make certain types 
of social change possible. As Margaret Mead points out, children 
can be more ‘successful* than their parents, hence ‘better.* 

Americans pubHcly state that having a good time is an impor- 
tant part of life and admit to craving ‘something new and 
exciting.* In terms of this ideology we have created Hollywood, 
our Forest of Arden type of college Hfe, our National Parks, 
Monuments, and Forests. Leaders of our entertainment industry 
are the best-paid men and women in the United States. In 1947 
the American people spent nearly 20,000 million dollars for alco- 
hoHc beverages, theatre and cinema tickets, tobacco, cosmetics, 
and jewellery. We spend as much for moving pictures as for 
churches, more for beauty shops than for social service. However, 
because of the Puritan tradition of ‘work for work*s sake,’ this 
devotion to recreation and material pleasure is often accompanied 
by a sense of guilt — another instance of the bipolarity of many 
features of American culture. The pleasure principle attains its 
fullest development in American youth culture. Youth is the 
hero o£ the American Dream. Most especially, the young girl 
ready for marriage is the cynosure of American society. 

We have borrowed ideas and values from countless sources. If 
one takes single features one can match almost every instance in 
a dozen or more cultures, including the primitive. For example, 
during the last war many of our soldiers carried magic amulets, 
such as a miniature wooden pig which was said to have raised 
fogs, smoothed out a high sea, commuted an execution, or cured 
assorted cases of illness. But if one looks at the total combination 
of premises and attitudes one sees a pattern that has its own 
special flavour, even though this description is too brief to take 
account of regional, class, ethnic group, and generational varia- 

An anthropological snapshot of the American way of hfe can- 


not catch all the details, but, with other cultures in the back- 
ground, it should stress some meaningful interplay of light and 
shadow. And the attempt is needed. No amount of knowledge 
of Russian or Chinese culture will avail in the solution of our 
international problems unless we know ourselves also. If we can 
predict our own reactions to a probable next move in the Russian 
gambit and have some clues as to why we shall react in that 
manner, the gain to self-control and towards more rational action 
will be tremendous. Because of our tradition of assimilating immi- 
grants and because of our overweening pride in our own culture 
it is particularly difficult to get Americans to understand other 

Seen in the perspective of the range of human institutions, the 
following combination of outstanding features defines the Ameri- 
can scene : consciousness of diversity of biological and cultural 
origins; emphasis upon technology and upon wealth; the frontier 
spirit; relatively strong trust in science and education and relative 
indifference to religion ; unusual personal insecurity ; concern over 
the discrepancy between the theory and the practice of the culture. 

‘The melting-pot^ is one of the surest catchwords that has ever 
been apphed to the United States. Probably much of the vitality 
of American life and the increased stature and other evidences of 
physical superiority for new generations of Americans must be 
attributed to the mingling of diverse cultural and biological strains 
as well as to dietary and environmental factors. The “Ballad for 
Americans triumphantly proclaims our manifold origins. News- 
papers during the war proudly referred to the fact that Eisen- 
hower was a German name but he was an American, to the fact 
that another general was an Indian, to the variety of names in 
American platoons and in American graveyards overseas. The 
distinguished record of Japanese-Americans in the armed services 
was used to document the success of the American Way. 

Heterogeneity has, in fact, become one of the organizing 
principles of American culture. Ripley’s “Believe it or Not,” 
“Quiz Kids” programmes, “Information Please,” and other for- 
mal and informal educational devices are evidence that Americans 



value disconnected pieces of information and feel that people 
must be prepared to live in a world in which generalizations are 
hard to apply. 

If one looks at a culture as a system in which traits mainly 
received by borrowing are being patterned in response to situa- 
tional factors and organic needs our American position at present 
bears a few compelling resemblances to that of Europe in perhaps 
the twelfth century. It was only then that a quasi-permanent 
integration had been attained in the European cultural melting- 
pot. Pagan and Christian, Grxco-Roman and Germanic culture 
elements had seethed in troubled opposition during the centuries 
of the movements of people. Our mass movements stopped only 
a generation ago with the closing of the frontier. During the 
tenth and eleventh centuries in Europe forests were cleared and 
swamps were drained; cities were built in large numbers in 
Northern Europe, and there came to be some fixity in the distri- 
bution and density of population. 

Because of the very fact that diversity is an explicit theme of 
American culture one must be careful not to over-emphasize the 
threats of the admitted contradictions in our way of life. Those 
who look longingly back to the good old days of a fancied homo- 
geneity in American values forget that the Tories almost equalled 
the Patriots in number, do not remember the details of the 
situation that demanded the Federalist papers, neglect the two 
radically opposed sets of values that led to the War between the 
States. Actually, we must agree with Frank Tannenbaum that 
the harmony best suited to a democratic society “is one which 
comes from many-sided inner tensions, strains, conflicts, and dis- 
agreements.’’ Though the stabiUty of a culture depends on how 
much the conflicts it engenders can be supplied adequate outlets, 
still the strength of the democratic process is that it not only 
tolerates but welcomes difference. Democracy is based not upon 
a single value but upon a subtle and intricate multiple of values. 
Its strength rests in the balance of social institutions. 

Although the definition of an American as a person who is 
endlessly catching trains is a caricature, the phrase of G. Lowes 
Dickinson, “contemptuous of ideas but amorous of devices,” 


remains uncomfortably correct as a characterization of all save a 
tiny minority of Americans. And while we indignantly met the 
Fascist label of “ plutocracy ! ” by pointing to our humanitarian 
organizations, our numerous foundations dedicated to the spend- 
ing of untold millions for lofty aims, and the generosity of indi- 
vidual citizens, it remains true that not only arc we the wealthiest 
nation in the world, but that money conics closer with us than 
with any other people to being the universal standard of value. 

This is why the level of intellectual ability is very much higher 
in the Harvard Law School than in the Harvard Graduate School 
of Arts and Sciences. The ablest undergraduates in Harvard 
College do not always receive the highest honours. The energies 
of many are often, realistically enough, consecrated to ‘making 
contacts’ through ‘activities,’ through a sedulous campaign to 
acquire membership in a ‘final club.’ This is not necessarily 
because they are congenitally uninterested in ideas, but because 
they have been effectually conditioned by family pressure and by 
certain schools. They have considerable intuitive insight into the 
structure of our culture. They know that intellectual endeavour 
will lead them to Uttle ‘recognition’ and less salary. They know 
how vital is ‘success’ to security in our society. Brilliant young 
men voluntarily condemn themselves to hves of cut-throat 
competition and narrow slavery. 

Our economy is a prestige economy to a pathological extent. 
The wife must buy fur coats and drive an expensive automobile 
because she too is an item of conspicuous consumption. Even in 
the supposedly uncommercial halls of learning the awed whisper 
is heard, “Why, he is a 15,000-dollar-a-ycar professor.” The 
numerical system of grading, an unmistakably American inven- 
tion, is simply another projection of our conviction that all 
attainments can be expressed in figures. 

Suppose that an intellectual Australian aborigine, who was also 
a trained anthropologist, were to write a monograph on our 
culture. He would unequivocally assert that maclhnes and money 
are close to the heart of our system of symbolic logics. He would 
point out that the two are linked in a complex system of mutual 
interdependence. Technology is valued as the very basis of the 



capitalistic system. Possession of gadgets is esteemed as a mark of 
success to the extent that persons are judged not by the integrity 
of their characters or by the originality of their minds but by 
what they seem to be — so far as that can be measured by the 
salaries they earn or by the variety and expensiveness of the 
material goods which they display. ‘ Success’ is measured by two 
cars — not by two mistresses as in some cultures. 

Could our aboriginal anthropologist introduce some time- 
perspective into his study he would note that this value system 
has shown some signs of alteration during the last two decades. 
However, against the background of all known cultures, American 
culture would still stand out for its quantitative and materiahstic 

Americans love bigness — so far as things and events are con- 
cerned. Their constant overstatement appears to others as boast- 
ing. Americans love to speak in numbers. They like to ‘get 
down to brass tacks’ and ‘want the lowdown.’ Europeans are 
usually content to rate students according to categories corre- 
sponding to “high honours,” “honours,” “pass.” Only Ameri- 
cans think that the relative standing of students in a course can be 
measured on a continuous scale from zero to a hundred. This 
emphasis on the quantitative must not be too easily taken as proof 
of a thoroughgoing materialism. But Americans do tend to get 
very excited about things as opposed to ideas, people, and 
aesthetic creations. ‘Virtuous materialism’ has tended to be part 
of the American creed. 

Status in the United States is determined more by the number 
and price of cars, air-conditioning units, and the like owned by a 
family than by the number of their servants or the learning 
and aesthetic ability of family members. In fact, Americans usually 
are scared out of being artists. There is reverence only for the 
man who ‘does things in a big way.’ Most Americans do sub- 
scribe to the current Einstein legend, but Time has recently 
pointed out that many did not take this very seriously until they 
were told that Einstein’s ‘theories’ had made the atomic bomb 
possible. It is significant that Edison is a household name, 
whereas only the professors have heard of Willard Gibbs. 


Jolon Dewey says that American thinking is characterized by a 
“lust after absolutes.” By this he does not, of course, mean a 
hankering for the ‘absolutes’ of reUgion and philosophy. He 
refers to the tendency to think that, because simple questions can 
be posed, there exist simple answers, which classify ideas and 
individuals as all black or all white. For tlois reason ‘compromise’ 
has an unfavourable connotation in American English. Worsliip 
of the external and quantitative leaves httle patience for the 
infinite shadings and variations of direct experience. Doubtless 
the vastness of the American scene and the impermanence of social 
place create a need to generalize. Europeans are ordinarily more 
sensitive to the complexity of situations. 

Our phrase ‘pioneer of industry’ is not a haphazard combina- 
tion of words. The patterns of the American Way were set 
during that period when the United States was on the skirmish 
line of civilization. The frontier has been a predominant influence 
in the shaping of American character and culture, in the moulding 
of American political life and institutions; the frontier is the 
principal, the recurring theme in the American symphony. 
Whatever distinction we have as a people, whatever differentiates 
us from the other branches of Western European civilization we 
owe in large part to the presence of the frontier — its unappro- 
priated wealth, its dangers and challenges. 

Unfortunately, many of the responses which made for survival 
under those conditions arc singularly unsuited to our present 
situation. To some considerable degree frontier virtues are the 
intolerable vices of contemporary America. To extemporize and 
not to plan for a settled future. Unhappily, we have tended to 
see these qualities as absolutes rather than from the perspective 
of cultural relativity. Aggressive and childish young Mickey 
Rooney was recently the hero of a population which ought to 
have grown up. A reactionary comic strip which portrays the 
triumphs Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks attain by stub- 
born clinging to pioneer attitudes and habits is still the inspirational 
reading of miUions of Americans. Egoistic individuahsm remains 
long after the economic place for it has passed. 

This same frontier spirit, however, affords the spiritual sources 



which can swiftly bring about potential reforms. If we Ameri- 
cans are restless, unanchored in our ideas as in our habitations, if 
also we may boast a certain freedom, a flexibility in our thinking 
and a vigour and independence in our action, it is in some degree 
traceable to the constant flux of American life, always westward, 
always away from old and permanent things. The American 
tempo has not become a sophisticated dignified one, measured in 
harmony with the persisting splendour of ancient palaces, and the 
symmetry of great parks carpeted with lawns such as only cen- 
turies of tending could produce. We have not evolved a splendid 
system of common law out of the crude folk code of the German 
forest by a millennium of patient and slow change. Our political 
institutions did not grow deep in the shadow wloich the imperium 
Romanum, the pax Romatia, the instituta Gaiiy have always cast over 
the ideas of the men of Western Europe. We on this continent 
have not upreared under the goad of a common ecstasy and 
mighty aspiration a magnificent shrine for Our Lady of Chartres, 
nor a great temple for the Three Kings of Cologne. We share, 
to be sure, in all the achievements of Western Europe because we 
have a common ancestry in blood and in ideas with the men of 
Western Europe, but we share more distantly, more and more 
differently. The common ecstasy of our great-grandfathers went 
towards the conquest of a vast and magnificent, a sometimes piti- 
less and terrible land; our grandfathers were born beside covered 
wagons in mountain passes, on the prairie, on the desert; the 
Vigilantes administered the laws in many of our early communi- 
ties. If our whole economic development as a nation was condi- 
tioned by the fact that for more than a century there was always 
free land in the West for the man who had lost his job in the East, 
it is equally true that this terrible struggle for survival against the 
Indian and against the land itself begot in our forefathers not a 
slow, ordered, conventionalized response to a given stimulus but 
a quick tense reaction to fit each differing need: the temper of 
American life to this day. 

Assembly-line factories and skyscrapers must, in part, be under- 
stood in terms of the frontier. Our so rapid development in 
invention and technique, our gigantic financial and industrial 


systems — in general, the fact that we adjusted so completely and 
quickly, albeit so inharmoniously, to the Technical Age — is to be 
traced to the absence of an ancient order of society and the 
presence of the frontier where we had to adapt ourselves to vast- 
ness with decision, speed, and skill. In an old culture there is a 
belief in the established order, a rooted opposition to change, a 
constitutional imperviousness to new ideas which would involve 
radical alteration in the mode of Hfe. The frontier hberated the 
American spirit. It developed generosity and radiant vitality, 
together with a restlessness which was both good and ill, but did 
certainly bring with it a resiUency of mind, fluidity of idea and 
of society, a willingness for bold experiment. 

Mass education, like mass suffrage and mass production, is a 
leading trait of our code. During the last generation education 
has supplanted the frontier as a favourite means of social mobility, 
for we have continued to define success in terms of mobility 
rather than in terms of stability. Our educational system has 
recently been built upon a kind of watery intellectualism. Wc 
have too often naively assumed that, if people were ‘well in- 
formed’ and taught to reason in accord with accepted canons of 
logic, their characters would take care of themselves, and they 
would automatically acquire the point of view requisite in the 
citizen of a great society. Meanwhile, the toughening influences 
of frontier conditions were becoming steadily more diluted. Chil- 
dren of the economically dominant classes were being brought up 
in relative luxury. Parents failed to condition their offspring to 
rigorous standards of conduct because they were themselves con- 
fused. Actually many educative functions formerly carried out 
by the family have been surrendered to the school. The existing 
educational system is hopelessly irresolute on many fronts. It 
vacillates between training girls to be housewives or career- 
women; it is tom between conditioning children for the theoreti- 
cally desirable co-operative objectives or to the existing competi- 
tive realities. In spite of the terrific demands made upon them, 
elementary and high-school teachers are underpaid and lack social 
status. Psychiatrists are agreed that the elimination of social dis- 
organization, as well as of personal disorganization, can be 



furthered only by more consistent educational practices both in 
the home and in the school because automatic actions based on 
the habits of early life are the most stable. 

The anthropologist must also characterize our culture as pro- 
foundly irreligious. More than half of our people still occa- 
sionally go through the forms, and there are rural and ethnic 
islands in our population where religion is still a vital force. But 
very few of our leaders are still rcHgious in the sense that they are 
convinced that prayer or the observance of Church codes will 
affect the course of human events. Public figures participate in 
public worship and contribute financially to a Church for reasons 
of expediency or because they know that churches represent one 
of the few elements of stability and continuity in our society. But 
belief in God’s judgments and punishments as a motive for 
behaviour is limited to a decreasing minority. Feelings of guilt 
are common but the sense of sin is rare. 

The legend of Jesus lives in men’s hearts and the Christian ethic 
is far from dead. As Bridges reminds us: '‘They who understand 
not cannot forget, and they who keep not His commandments 
call Him Master and Lord.” But, in the opinion of many acute 
observers, American Protestantism is vital to-day primarily as an 
agency of benign social work. Relatively few Protestants, except 
in a few sects and in some rural areas, manifest deep reUgious 
feeling. The Roman Church certainly retains vigour, and parts 
of the encycHcals of recent Popes are not the least impressive of 
utterances upon contemporary Hfe. To more than a few intel- 
lectuals of recent years the CathoKc Church has appeared as the 
one firm rock in a sea of chaos and decay. To others it seems that 
the authoritarian Church, for all the social wisdom she has shown, 
for all the subtlety of her doctors, has purchased peace of mind in 
their time for her communicants by identifying ephemeral cul- 
tural expedients with immutable human nature. A system of 
beUefs, profoundly felt, is unquestionably necessary to the survival 
of any society, but an increasing number of Americans debate the 
extent to which the dogmas of any organized Christian Church 
are compatible with contemporary secular knowledge. 

Much of this debate reflects tlie shallowness of certain aspects 


of American culture. The alternative of science or religion is 
fictitious once it be granted that the functions of reHgion are 
primarily symbolic, expressive, and orientative. Every culture 
must define its ends as well as perfect its means. The logical and 
symbolic expressions of the ultimate values of a civilization cannot 
arise directly from scientific investigation, though it is fair to 
demand that they should not rest upon premises contrary to 
known fact or proven theory. A mechanistic, materialistic 
‘science’ hardly provides the orientations to the deeper problems 
of hfe that are essential for happy individuals and a healthy social 
order. Nor does a political philosophy such as ‘democracy.’ 
Men need tenets that do not outrage the brain but are meaningful 
to the viscera and the aesthetic sensibilities. They must be 
symbolized in rites that gratify the heart, please the ear and eye, 
fulfil the hunger for drama. 

Observers agree on the poverty of American ceremonial Hfe. 
American ceremoniaHsm is too overwhelmingly that of masonic 
conventions and labour rallies. If such national sentiments as we 
possess are to be maintained at a degree of intensity sufficient to 
preserve them, they must be given collective expression on suit- 
able occasions. If the conduct of the individual is to be regulated 
in accord with the needs and purposes of the society, the society’s 
sentiments must be periodically reinforced in the individual by 
gatherings in which ail classes assert in symboHc form, “We are 
one people.”^ 

Mass economic upheaval following upon unprecedented eco- 
nomic growth, lack of attention to the human problems of an 
industrial civiHzation, the impersonaHty of the social organization 
of cities, the melting-pot, transitory geographical residence, social 
mobihty, weakening of reHgious faith — all of these trends have 
contributed to make Americans feel unanchored, adrift upon a 
meaningless voyage. The American family system is in process 

1 These statements may seem to imply an exaltation of nationalism or at least an 
acceptance of its inevitability for all time. Nothing of the sort is intended. I am primarily 
interested in calling attention to the empirical fact of the connexion between means and 
ends. Also, I believe that certain American sentiments have a value to us and to the 
world — at least until the millennium of a world society arrives. 



of settling into a new type of organization, and such a phase docs 
not make for psychic ease. Why are Americans a nation of 
joiners’ In part this is a defence mechanism against the excessive 
fluidity of our social structure. Weary of the tension of con- 
tinual struggle for social place, people have tried to gain a degree 
of habitual and recognized fixity by allying themselves with 
others in voluntary associations. 

The smooth working of all societies depends upon individuals 
not having to think about many of their acts. They can carry out 
their speciaHzed functions better if much of their behaviour is a 
more or less automatic reaction to a standardized situation in a 
socially appropriate fashion. A man meets a woman acquaintance 
on the street. He raises his hat. Such small acts bind a society 
together by making one’s behaviour inteUigible to one’s neigh- 
bours and give the participants a sense of security. Because one 
knows what to do and knows what the other person will do 
everything seems to be under control. Such patterns hkewise 
release energy for the activities in which the individual is really 
interested. The trouble in our society is that the cluster of mean- 
ings upon which such a customary, repetitive way of behaving 
must depend is sadly disorganized. The cultural dislocation of 
emigrant groups, the rapid and disorderly expansion of cities, 
and many other factors have aU contributed to the disorientation 
of individuals from a cohesive social matrix. Technicians have 
appHed science to industry without either management, unions, 
or the state making more than feeble attempts at the indispensable 
compensatory adjustments in social structure. 

A disproportionate technological development has given tempo 
to American fife but denied it rhythm. It has provided the 
constant over-stimulation necessary to throw many of us into a 
perpetual state of neurotic indecision. The disparity between our 
ingenuity in solving mechanical as opposed to human problems is 
a grave question. It would be infantile, of course, to say, “Away 
with the machine ! ” Obviously, it is not machines but our lack 
of scientific attention to the problems they raise which is evil. It 
is a legitimate hope that machines may free the majority of 
humans from drudgery and thus afford an escape from industrial 


feudalism. Further, as Mumford has urged, machines and the 
rapid transportation and distribution of goods which they make 
possible create an international reciprocity and dependency such 
as to make the peace and order of nations more nearly a condition 
which must be attained rather than a pious desirabihty. 

In rural areas and small towns quick and direct response of 
neighbours can make for great personal security and for other 
values enriching to life. In cities, however, the economy is so 
finely organized and speciahzed that the dependency of one 
individual upon another, though actually more acute, is not felt 
in warm personal terms. People miss a network of relationships 
linking the job, the family, the Church, and other institutions. 
They feel the lack of personal appreciation of the products of their 
labours and of non-utilitarian creativity. Edward Sapir has well 
contrasted our psychological position with that of the primitive : 

So long as the individual retains a sense of control over the major 
goods of life, he is able to take his place in the cultural patrimony of 
his people. Now that the major goods of life have shifted so largely 
from the realm of immediate to that of remote ends, it becomes a 
cultural necessity for all who would not be looked upon as dis- 
inherited to share in the pursuit of these remoter ends. Nor harmony 
and depth of Hfe ... is possible when activity is well-nigh circum- 
scribed by the sphere of imtncdiatc ends and when functioning 
within that sphere is so fragmentary as to have no inherent intelligi- 
bility or interest. Here Ues the grimmest joke of our present Ameri- 
can civilization. The vast majority- of us, deprived of any but an 
insignificant and culturally abortive share in the satisfaction of the 
immediate wants of mankind, are further deprived of both oppor- 
tunity and stimulation to share in the production of non-utilitarian 
values. Part of the time we are dray horses; the rest of the time we 
are listless consumers of goods which have received no least impress 
of our personality. In other words, our spiritual selves go hungry, 
for the most part, pretty much all of the time. 

Most thoughtful Americans are concerned about the ^ct that 
the theory and the practice of our culture are hopelessly out of line. 
It is well estabhshed that, while cultural content often changes 
rapidly, cultural forms often have extraordinary permanency. 



Thus it is only the tradition of economic independence which 
truly survives. In spite of all our talk of free enterprise we have 
created the most vast and crushing monopolies in the world. 
Although the fable that every boy can become President has been 
repeatedly scoffed at in recent years, parents and children still act 
upon the ruling motivation that hard work, training, and aggres- 
siveness can overcome almost all limitations. The result is, of 
course, countless disgruntled or bitter men and women, for as 
Veblen has shown, in a capitalistic economy the number of places 
at the top is disappointingly few. A cramping constriction will be 
felt by individuals so long as our ideal pattern is proclaimed as 
equahty of opportunity for all. ‘Freedom’ Hkewise has become 
fertile of disillusioned cynicism because of increasing reahzation 
of the truth of Durkheim’s words: “I can be free only to the 
extent that others are forbidden to profit from their physical, 
economic, or other superiority to the detriment of my liberty.” 
And much of the exultation in our ‘high standard of living’ is, 
as Norman Thomas contends, 

ludicrously beside the point. What the workers have a right to 
demand of the machine age is not that it will give them more bath- 
tubs than Henry VIII had for his troublesome domestic establish- 
ment ; they have a right to ask that machinery will conquer poverty 
rather than increase insecurity. 

A society may indeed be viewed as a structure of expectancies. 
Neuroses have been produced experimentally in laboratory 
animals by causing the relation between stimulus and proper 
response to be irregular and haphazard. It follows that if the 
expectancies which are generated by the cultural ideology are 
notably unrealistic mass frustration and mass neurosis are the 
inescapable consequences. 

The diversity of ethnic origins in our forming nation provided 
strong psychological reinforcement of the doctrines of human 
equality, which were the gospel of the Age of Enlightenment and 
of the Romantic Movement. Had not a behef in mystic equaUty 
become part of the ofEcial ideology of American culture and 
offered psychological security to non-Anglo-Saxons, these diver- 


gent groups might well have remained tight little islands of trans- 
planted Europeans. But the contrast between this legal and 
political theory and the private theories and practices of too many 
American citizens (as symbohzed in labels hke ‘wops’ and 
‘greasers,’ in Negro laws and lynchings) constitutes one of the 
severest strains undermining the equilibrium of the American 
social system. The Negroes and, to only a slightly lesser extent, 
the Spanish-speaking Americans constitute caste groups — that is, 
normal intermarriage does not occur between them and the rest 
of the population. Segregation in housing and discriminatory 
practices in our armed services stand out as intolerable contra- 
dictious in the institutions of a free society. 

In the last fifteen years anthropologists have presented evidence 
that, in contrast to our official beliefs, a class structure has even 
now considerably crystalHzed in at least some parts of the United 
States. Lloyd Warner and his associates distinguish a six-class 
system : upper-upper, lower-upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, 
upper-lower, lower-lower. These groupings are not solely eco- 
nomic. In fact, members of the top class ordinarily have less 
money than those of the lower-upper group. Nor does stratifica- 
tion correspond entirely to occupational lines. Physicians, for 
example, are found in all of the first four classes. In Warner’s 
sense a class consists of persons who visit in one another’s home, 
belong to the same social clubs, exchange gifts, and show aware- 
ness of themselves as a group set apart from others, and in a 
subordinate or superior position to others. 

Whether the six-class system is generally valid or whether a 
larger or smaller sub-division better represents the facts in some 
communities is a factual question that cannot be answered until 
there have been more studies. The division of labour in a com- 
plex society makes some form of class stratification almost 
inevitable. It just so happens that in American culture recognition 
of the facts is repugnant to the American creed. Public-opinion 
poUs indicate that 90 per cent, of Americans insist that they are 
‘middle class’ despite wide variations in income level, occupation, 
and social habits. One study shows that 70 per cent, of the 
low-income groups claim middle-class social position. Warner, 



however, places 59 per cent, of the people in one New England 
town in the two lower classes. 

Under the influence of the depression and of Marxian theories 
discussion of class in the United States has increased greatly in 
the past twenty years. When class position is grudgingly recog- 
nized, it is often with anger — as something un-American and 
hence wrong. Some students of American class structure have 
failed to examine the significance of values — adhered to by almost 
all Americans — which operate to deny and tear down class divi- 
sions. Except possibly in limited areas of the eastern seaboard, 
the South, and the San Francisco area, the lines are still relatively 
fluid and everyone hopes to rise. The statement that American 
culture is dominantly a middle-class culture is something more 
than an acceptance of popular ideology wliich glosses over the 
sometimes ugly ficts of differentiation. Hence ‘class,’ though a 
real phenomenon, does not have precisely the sense that it does in 
Europe. Certainly Americans are increasingly conscious of status, 
but the ranking of individuals and their immediate families is 
often still divorced from that of their close relatives. And the 
place of the whole body of kin in the smaller communities is 
frequently based primarily on length of residence there. Our 
society remains in important respects an open society. 

Neverdieless the facts indicate that rapid rise through sheer 
abihty and industry is much more difficult than it was a generation 
or two ago. Status is harder to achieve by one’s own initiative 
and easier to acquire through family connexions. In Washington 
during the war it was noted that considerable communication 
and power flowed through channels that were not only non- 
official but not those of pohtical or other normal American 
interest groups. For the first time since the Age of Jackson an 
upper class appeared to be operating without much reference to 
regional or political lines. The class problem is also manifesting 
itself in the schools. Teachers, themselves usually of middle-class 
position, discriminate against lower-class children. The children 
sense that they are punished for following the cultural patterns of 
their parents. If effort and abihty are not rewarded the way to 
delinquency or stohd escapism is inviting. In short, class typing 


rather than individual typing has become one American mode of 
granting or denying recognition to other people. 

Americans are at present seeing social change of a vastness diffi- 
cult to comprehend. Concretely, social change has its origins in 
the strains and dissatisfactions felt by specific individuals. When 
personal insecurity is sufficiently intense and sufficiently wide- 
spread new patterns are germinated in the few creative individuals, 
and there will be willingness to try them out on the part of larger 
numbers. Such is the present condition of American society. If 
a society be regarded as a system in equiUbrium, it may be said 
that in the decade following 1918 the pre-war equihbrium was 
precariously reattained. But the depression and the Second 
World War appear to have destroyed the old equilibrium beyond 
repair. At the moment Americans are in the tortures of attempt- 
ing to reach a new and differently based equilibrium. The 
devastating appropriateness of the phrase, “the neurotic per- 
sonality of our time,’’ is both the condition and the result of this 

The basis of social Ufe is the sensitivity of human beings to the 
behaviour of other human beings. In a complex society the need 
for correct interpretation and response to the demands of others is 
especially great. But in American culture the first experiences of 
the growing child tend so to emphasize prestige (especially eco- 
nomic prestige) needs that the ego requirements of our adults are 
often too tremendous for them to follow any other pattern. As 
Homey says, “the striving for prestige as a means of overcoming 
fears and inner emptiness is certainly culturally prescribed.’’ Such 
a device, however, hke the intemperate devotion to the pleasure 
principle, is but a feeble paUiative. The popular motto, “every 
man for himself,” was less socially dangerous when firm and 
generally held behefs in the afterward provided some check upon 
rampant individualism. 

The frontier code of sturdy individuaHsm needs tempering and 
modification the more because it is seldom possible of attainment 
in the present situation. As Sirjamaki says, “The culture posits 
individualism as a basic social value but places overwhelming 
burdens upon its reaHzation.” In most aspects of social life 



American demands for conformity are too great. After the pass- 
ing of the frontier, individuaHsm was expressed mainly in the 
economic part of the culture. To-day the United States is almost 
the only country in the world in which large numbers of people 
cling to laissez-faire principles in economics and government. In 
its extreme form this is utterly unrcaHstic, a fixation upon a vain 
phantasm of our past. 

Some acceptance of planning and of stabihty as a value would 
decrease the envy and strife that go with incessant mobility. In a 
society where everybody is either going up or going down there 
is an excessive psychological necessity to cherish the famihar. 
This exaggerated stress upon conformity plus our business 
extemahsm has created what Fromm has recently termed “the 
personality of the market place’’ as the most frequent type in our 
culture. Given the pressures to conformity, personality fulfilment 
is denied to many, perhaps most, of our citizens. 

America’s claim to greatness thus far is not through its Wit- 
mans and Melvilles, nor its Woods and Bentons, nor its Michel- 
sons and Comptons. StiU less does it consist in its having added 
to the contemplative or reUgious treasures of mankind. Emerson, 
Thoreau, James, and Dewey are distinguished thinkers, but that 
they are of the stature of many other ancient and modern philo- 
sophers is doubtful. Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, and other 
leaders of cultist or revivahstic sects represent all that is charac- 
teristically American in rehgion. 

Americans have, however, been inventive in more than one 
sphere. Admirable and useful as are those material inventions 
which have made ‘the American standard of living’ an inter- 
national byword, American social inventions are the most distinc- 
tive contributions made by the United States to world culture. 
The cult of the average man is an even more chracteristically 
American invention than the assembly line. Philosophers of many 
nations had dreamed of a state guided by a skilfully trained but 
small group of the good and wise. The United States, however, 
was the first country to dedicate itself to the conception of a 
society where the lot of the common man would be made easier, 
where the same opportunities would be available to all, where the 


lives of all men and women would be enriched and ennobled. 
This was something new under the sun. 

We cannot rest upon the laurels of past achievement. E. H. 
Carr has bluntly stated the alternatives : 

The impact of the Soviet Union has fallen on a western world 
where much of the framework of individualism was already in 
decay, where faith in the self-sufficiency of individual reason had 
been sapped by the critique of relativism, where the democratic 
community was in urgent need of reinforcement against the forces 
of disintegration latent in individualism, and where the technical 
conditions of production on the one hand, and the social pressures 
of mass civilization on the other, were already imposing far-reaching 
measures of collective organization. . . .The fate of the western 
world will turn on its abiUty to meet the Soviet challenge by a 
successful search for new forms of social and economic action in 
which what is valid in individuahst and democratic tradition can be 
applied to the problems of mass civilization. 

All advocates of government by an elite, from Plato to Hitler 
and Stalin, have ridiculed the competence of average citizens to 
form rational opinions upon complex issues. There is no doubt 
that many nineteenth-century utterances absurdly exalted ration- 
ality. Yet the best anthropological evidence, as Franz Boas 
pointed out, is that the judgment of the masses is sounder than 
the judgment of the classes on broad questions of policy where 
sentiments and values are concerned. This doctrine must not be 
perverted into a claim for the common man's expertness on 
technical or artistic matters. Nor does contemporary thought 
refer to the individual citizen’s judgments. Rather, it refers to 
collective decisions arrived at in group interaction and dealing 
with “matters of common concern which depend upon estimates 
of probabihty.” As Carl Friedrich continues: 

This concept of the common man salvages from the onslaught of 
the irrationahst revolt those elements in the older doctrine which 
are essential to democratic poUtics. It seeks a middle ground be- 
tween the extreme rationahstic ideas of an earlier day and the denial 
of all rationahty by those who were disappointed over its limitations. 

. . . Enough common men, when confronted with a problem, can 



be made to see the facts in a given situation to provide a working 
majority for a reasonable solution, and such majorities will in turn 
provide enough continuing support for a democratic government to 
enforce such common judgments concerning matters of common 

What is the prospect for American culture? Let one anthro- 
pologist, though bearing in mind the principles of his science, 
speak unashamedly in terms of his own American sentiments. 
Given our biological and material wealth, given the adaptive 
genius which is the constructive heritage of our pecuharly Ameri- 
can frontier-spirit, it will be the fault not of angels but of our- 
selves if our problems are not in large part resolved. The decisive 
factor will be the extent to which individual Americans feel a 
personal responsibihty. This, in turn, depends upon an intangible : 
their total philosophic attitude. James Truslow Adams in The 
Epic of America urges that the meaningful contribution which the 
United States has made to the totaUty of human culture is “the 
American Dream,” “a vision of a society in which the lot of the 
common man will be made easier and his life enriched and 
ennobled.” It was in the ideological field that America made its 
first and can still make its greatest contribution to the world. In 
the New World, peopled by robust men and women who had 
the courage to emigrate and many of whom were impelled by 
the active vision of a nobler society, Americans enlarged the 
meaning of freedom and gave it many new expressions. 

It is this prospect for American culture which we must cherish 
and believe in. Nor is there anything in science which indicates 
that the dreams of man do not influence, nay sometimes deter- 
mine, his behaviour. While choice is most often a flattering 
illusion, while antecedent and existent hard-sense data usually 
shape our destinies, there are moments in the careers of nations, 
as well as in the careers of individuals, when opposing external 
forces are about equally balanced, and it is then that intangibles 
like ‘will’ and ‘belief’ tip the scales. Cultures are not altogether 
self-contained systems which inevitably follow out their own self- 
determined evolution. Sorokin and other prophets of doom fail 
to see that one of the factors which determines the next step in 


the evolution of a system is precisely the dominant attitudes of 
people. And these are not completely determined by the existent 
culture. John Dew'ey has shown us that in “judgments of prac- 
tice” the hypothesis itself has a crucial influence upon the course 
of events: “to the extent that it is seized and acted upon, it 
weights events in its favor.” 

Even that erstwhile pessimist, Aldous Huxley, has seen that the 
discoveries of modem psychology have been perverted to bolster 
a false determinism. If responses can be conditioned, they can 
by the same token be de-conditioned and reconditioned — though 
neither individuals nor peoples change suddenly and completely. 
We are now released from the dominantly external and material 
demands which frontier conditions made upon our society. 
Intelligent planning can case the hostile tensions of national 
anarchy by providing both security and socialized freedom for 
the individual. Ideals of flourishing freshness that adapt to changed 
conditions and to what is sound and creative in the distinctive 
American Way are the only sure antidote for our social ills. 
Only those ideals will spread and be accepted which correspond 
to the culturally created emotional needs of the people. Scientific 
humanism is such an ideal. Rooted in the tradition of Americans 
to value scientific achievement highly, scientific humanism can 
make actual the American Dream. As our culture has come from 
all the world, so must we give back to all the world not that 
technological materiaHsm which is science cheapened and debased 
but the scientific attitude woven into the stuff of people’s daily 
hves. This is a vision of humihty in the face of the complexity of 
things, of the joyous pursuit of ideas of which there is no exclusive 
possession. This is science not as the provider of the agencies of 
parbarism but science as revealing the order in experience, as 
leightening the sense of our precarious dependence one upon the 
other, as the surest and most powerful of internationalizing 

Scientific humanism should be the sturdy creed of the future. 
Despite uncritical worship of invention and technology, the 
masses are still, in Carlson’s expression, “innocent of science, in 
the sense of the spirit and the method of science as part of their 



way of life. . . . Science in this sense has as yet hardly touched the 
common man or his leaders.” An effective working majority of 
our citizens need no longer base their personal security upon 
expectation of future Hfe or adult dependency upon the projected 
images of parent-persons. The scientific vision is the vision which 
Plato saw in the Symposium, a security system which is deper- 
sonalized, but humanized rather than dehumanized. To try to 
make such a vision real offers American men and women that 
common nobiUty of purpose which is the vitahzing energy of any 
significant culture. The venture demands a courage analogous to 
rehgious faith, a courage undismayed by the failure of any specific 
experiment, a courage ready to offer the renunciations of waiting 
long, a courage which recognizes that even negative knowledge 
means growth, a courage realizing that the general hypotheses 
underlying the venture will be proved only if diminished anxiety 
and greater gusto in day-to-day living transform the lives of us all. 



The temerity of this title frightens the anthropologist who is 
accustomed to working upon a small canvas with careful attention 
to factual detail. Moreover, the recipe for action that must be 
drawn from applied anthropology thus far is that of caution, of 
modest expectations as to what can be accomplished by planning, 
of humility as to what may be predicted with present instruments 
for observing and for making concepts, of preference for vis 
medicatrix naturce in many social situations. 

Indications are not lacking that some anthropologists, exhila- 
rated by newly discovered techniques and intoxicated by the fact 
that for the first time men of affairs are seeking their advice on a 
fairly extended scale, are encouraging hopes which their science 
is not mature enough to fulfil. To restrain anthropologists from 
irresponsible pronouncements the profession may need to develop 
sanctions comparable to tliose wliich law and medicine have 
created to control charlatanism and malpractice. 

Anthropology has attained some practical utility. It has 
serviceable techniques for getting information necessary to diag- 
nose and interpret human behaviour. There is a body of slowly 
built up generalizations which statesmen, administrators, and 
planners would be foolish not to heed. Anthropology can lay 
bare the internal logics of each culture. It can sometimes show 
how the economic theory, the political theory, the art forms, and 
the rehgious doctrine of each society are all expressive of a single 
set of elementary assumptions. In certain cases anthropologists 
have proved that they can forecast the social weather with some 
accuracy. But it is one thing to be able to make some useful 




predictions as to what is likely to happen — and by thus foreseeing 
to be able to make useful preparations. It is quite another thing to 
interfere, wilfully to introduce new compHcations into an already 
tortuous social maze. At least when it comes to big situations 
the anthropologist would do well to abide by what has proved a 
helpful rule in many medical cases. ‘Sit tight. Watch. Prepare 
for probable developments, but do not interfere with natural 
forces making for recuperation until you are sure action will be 
helpful, or, as an absolute minimum, do no harm.” 

On the other hand, as Walter Lippman has observed, “The 
controlling principle of our time is that the peoples of the world 
will not let nature take its course.” The participation of social 
scientists in these decisions, if not over-ambitious or arrogant, 
can add a much needed leaven of specialized knowledge. Because 
social science deals with the facts of everyday life, many states- 
men and men of affairs feel that they can become their own 
sociologists without training. A prevalent attitude towards 
professional social scientists is imreasonable in that too little is 
asked and too much is expected. As Scroggs has written: 

When we find a charlatan vending snake-oil we don’t find fault 
with doctors; instead, as the spirit moves us, we either pity or 
despise the rascal’s gullible victims. Medicine and its allied sciences 
have attained a status which is so clearly defined and so well under- 
stood that they are not attacked when physicians do not work 
miracles or when quacks prostitute a noble calling to base ends. 
Economics and all the social sciences, on the other hand, are still in 
the making. In some respects they are like Kipling’s ship before she 
found herself} Owing to the complicated character of the materials 
with which these sciences are concerned, their development camiot 
be hurried and their application is unavoidably limited. Those who 
are impatient with the ailments of human society demand too much 
when they expect social science to diagnose the malady, write a 
prescription, and soon have the patient on the road to recovery. 

The anthropologist cannot be at once a scientist, expert framer 
of national policies, and infallible prophet. But, if he is to make 
a truly scientific contribution to the solution of pubhe problems, 
his highly technical studies in basic science must be supported on 


a more subst^ial scale. There is vague public acceptance of the 
necessity for the natural scientist to conduct recondite experi- 
ments, some of which end in blind alleys. There tends, however, 
to be contempt or lack of patience with the endless detail devoted 
by the anthropologist to the analysis of a kinship system, for 
instance. Yet sound conceptions of human behaviour must be 
based upon as exhaustive a study of minutiae as has been given to 
organic compounds in chemistry. 

Present anthropology has recognizable limits. There is a wide 
gap between programme and accomplishment. The greatest 
strength of anthropology rests in its asking some of the right 
questions rather than in supplying the answers. Anthropological 
knowledge needs to be fused with that of the other human 
sciences. In particular, more attention to individual variation 
must supplement the study of group variation. One of the wise 
things which Rcinhold Niebuhr says in The Nature and Destiny 
of Man is that the contemporary world overestimates the powers 
of the ‘collective will’ and underestimates those of the individual 

Yet, in spite of all these deeply felt cautions and quahfications, 
the anthropologist as citizen is morally obliged to look at the 
world. For the essence of democracy is that each individual offers 
to the thinking of the group those insights that derive from his 
special experience and training. Contemporary understanding of 
international relations stands about where knowledge of the 
workings of small societies did when anthropologists began their 
field work among non-literate cultures. The anthropologist has, 
not a solution, but an indispensable contribution to make to the 
appraisal of the total world scene. He will be under no delusions 
as to the adequacy of his empirical data. But he will be confident 
of the applicability of his principles. During the last ten years 
anthropologists have not only written a good deal about Ameri- 
can and British culture. David Rodnick has described Post-ivar 
Germans as dispassionately as an Indian tribe. Ruth Benedict’s 
and John Embree’s books on Japan, those of various Cliinese and 
foreign anthropologists on China, have given a new outlook to 
our understanding of the Far East. 




Historians, economists, and political scientists frequently say, 
“Anthropological methods work well enough when applied to 
simple peoples. But they are useless for dealing with a diverse, 
stratified, segmented society.” This reasoning rests upon a mis- 
apprehension, though there are significant differences between 
tribal, peasant, and fully industriaHzed populations. The prob- 
lems of a modern civilization are undoubtedly more compHcated. 
The quantity of data needed is much greater. For certain purposes 
each sub-culture must be investigated separately. For other pur- 
poses, however, regional and class variations are relatively external, 
superficial, and unimportant. Though multi-cultural states Hke 
Jugoslavia present their special complications, no nation can exist 
for long as a nation unless there is some discoverable core of 
common purposes. These basic goals may be expressed in a 
confusing variety of forms, but they are held by the vast majority 
of members of all groups in the society. Ruth Benedict has 
provided a telling illustration : 

The wealthy industrialist and the laborer or peasant, in a nation or 
area of Western civilization, hold many attitudes in common. The 
attitude toward property only in part depends upon whether one is 
rich or whether one is poor. Property may be, as in Holland, some- 
thing which is an almost inseparable part of one’s own self-esteem, 
something to be added to, kept immaculately, and never spent care- 
lessly. This is true, whether the individual belongs to court circles 
or can say in the words of a proverbial expression: “If it’s only a 
penny a year, lay it by.” Alternatively, the attitude toward property 
may be quite different, as in Roumania. An upper-class person 
may be, or become, a pensioner of a wealthy man, without loss of 
status or self-confidence; his property, he says, is not “himself.” 
And the poor peasant argues that, being poor, it is futile for him to 
lay anything by; “he would,” he says, “if he were rich.” The well- 
to-do increase their possessions by other means than thrift, and the 
traditional attitude toward property differences associates wealth 
with luck or exploitation, rather than with assured position as in 
Holland. In each of these countries, as in other European nations, 
many of which have deeply embedded special attitudes toward 
property, the specific nature of these assumptions can be greatly 
clarified by study of what is required of the child in his handling and 


ownership of property, and under what sanctions and conditions 
expanding opportunities are allowed in adolescence, and at his 
induction into fully adult status. 

Attitudes toward authority are similarly localized. A Greek, 
whether he belongs to the upper classes, or whether he is a peasant 
villager, has a characteristic opposition to authority from above, 
which permeates daily conversation and influences his choice of a 
means of livelihood quite as much as it colors his political attitudes. 

Just as anthropologists maintain that some themes cut across 
complex cultures, so also they insist that there are known and 
knowable principles of human behaviour which are universal. 
For this reason also a restriction of the appheability of anthro- 
pology is false. All human societies, from the ‘most primitive’ to 
the ‘most advanced’ constitute a continuum. Industrialization 
poses different problems but also some of the same ones to Navaho 
Indians, PoHsh peasants, Siamese rice farmers, and Japanese 

Anthropology grants the same amnesty to cultural variations 
that the psycho-analyst gives to incestuous wishes. In neither case, 
however, is approval impHed. The barbarity of a concentration 
camp is not good by virtue of being one element in the Nazi 
design for living. The anthropologist and the psycliiatrist accept 
what is only to the extent of asserting that it is meaningful and 
cannot be ignored. Fantasies of incest may play some part in the 
psychological economy of a certain personahty. They are 
symptoms of underlying causes. If symptoms are prevented 
expression the causes will still be operative and produce another 
disorder. If a tribe’s customary outlet for aggression in war is 
blocked one may predict an increase in intratribal hostility (per- 
haps in the form of witchcraft) or in pathological states of melan- 
choly resultant upon anger being turned inward against the self. 
Culture patterns must be respected because they are functional. 
If a pattern is destroyed a socially desirable substitute must be 
provided or energies must be made to run in other directions. 

Respect does not mean preservation under all conditions. 
Sicihan customs do not make much sense in Boston. Chinese 
habits are out of place in San Francisco even if they appeal to 



tourists as ‘quaint/ Anthropologists have sometimes been justly 
accused of wanting to keep the world a cultural museum, of 
striving to maintain aborigines in so many zoological parks. 
Some of the talk about the values of American Indian and 
Spanish-American cultures in the United States has been senti- 
mental. It is significant that anthropologists have studied these 
exotic cultures almost to the exclusion of generalized American 
culture. We have sometimes confused the right to be different 
with a demand for the perpetuation of differences. 

^ The best anthropological position takes a middle ground 
between sentimentality and the Philistine type of ‘modernization.' 
When any culture is totally obliterated there is an irreparable loss 
to mankind, for no people has failed to create something worth- 
while in the course of its experience. The anthropologist prefers 
evolution to revolution because a gradual adaptation means both 
that there are no lost generations and that whatever is of perma- 
nent value in the older way of life is poured into the total stream 
of human culture. 

^ " The anthropological outlook demands toleration of other ways 
of life — so long as they do not threaten the hope for world order. 
Satisfactory world order, however, cannot be brought about by 
the reduction of cultural diversity and the creation of a world- 
wide grey sameness. Those rich diversities of form that cultures 
assume from distinct histories, distinct physical environments, 
distinct contemporary situations — and that arc not in conflict 
with modern technology and science — are invaluable assets for 
good life in the world. As Lawrence Frank says: 

To believe that the English-speaking or Western European peoples 
can impose upon all others the parliamentarism, the peculiar eco- 
nomic business practices, the esoteric creeds and religious rituals, and 
all the other idiomatic features of their Western European patterns, 
is the initial misconception and blindness in so much of present-day 
tliinking and planning . . kEvery culture is asymmetrical, biased, 
and incomplete, making a virtue of its deficiencies and its anesthesias. 
Each culture in grappling with the same problems has created pat- 
terns of action, speech, and belief, of human relationships and values 
that have accentuated certain potentialities of human life and have 


ignored or repressed others. Each culture seeks to represent itself 
by its aspirations, emphasizing its lofty ethical or moral goals as its 
essential character, and usually ignoring its shortcomings and its 
often destructive features . ) . . 

/ No single culture can be accepted as the final and best for all 
peoples^< we must recognize the unhappiness, the degradation, the 
misery, the incredible brutality, cruelty, and human wastage in all 
cultures which each tends to ignore while stressing lofty ethical aims 
and moral aspirations. ... We may view cultures as we view the 
arts of different peoples as esthetically significant and artistically 
meaningful, each in its own context or setting. 

, Our age is hostile to nuances. Increasingly people of all conti- 
nents are being forced to choose between the extreme right and 
the extreme left. Yet the scientific study of human variation 
indicates that experience is a continuum, that any extreme posi- 
tion represents a distortion of reality. To admit as good only what 
is American or Enghsh or Russian is unscientific and imhistorical. 
Americans have generally accepted diversity as a condition, but 
only some Americans have embraced it as a value. The dominant 
note has been that of pride in destroying diversity through 
assimilation. The significance of anthropological knowledge is 
that any particular way of life belongs to a greater phenomenon 
(the total culture of humanity) of which any one culture is one 
temporary phase. The anthropologist urges that each specific 
world problem be* treated within a framework including the 
human species as a whole. 

‘/ Order is bought too dearly if it is bought at the price of the 
tyranny of any single set of inflexible principles, however noble 
these may appear to be from the perspective of any single culture. 
Individuals are biologically different, and there are various types 
of temperament which reappear at different times and places in 
the world’s history. So long as the satisfaction of temperamental 
needs is not needlessly thwarting to the Hfe activities of others, 
so long as the diversities are not socially destructive, individuals 
must not only be permitted but, indeed, encouraged to fulfil them- 
selves in diverse ways. ^ The necessity for diversity is founded 
upon the facts of biological differences, differences in situation, 


varying backgrounds in individual and cultural history. The one- 
ness of the world must be negative only in so far as violence is 
restrained. Positive unity will need to be firmly based upon 
universal adherence to a very general, very simple, but also very 
Hmited moral code. It can flower triumphantly only to the 
degree that the fullest and most various potentiaHties of the human 
spirit are reahzed. The healthiest kind of society would create 
citizens who wanted to express themselves in ways that were both 
personally and socially useful. The highest morality in the best 
society would allow fulfilment of all personaUty needs, Umiting 
only the manner, place, time, and object of expression. 

'^The paradox of unity in diversity was never so meaningful as 
to-day. The Fascists attempted an escape from ‘the frightening 
heterogeneity of the twentieth century’ by a return to primi- 
tivism where there is no harassing conflict, no disturbing choice, 
because there is but a single rule and that unquestioned. The 
Communists likewise promise escape from freedom through the 
individual’s surrender of his autonomy to the state. The demo- 
cratic solution is that of orchestrated heterogeneity. One may 
compare a symphony. There is a plan to the whole and a relation 
of parts which must be maintained. But this does not mean that 
the deUcious contrast of themes, of tempos, is lost. The first 
movement is distinct from the fourth. It has its own value and 
significance — though still its full meaning is dependent upon an 
orderly and articulated relation to the rest. 

So the world must be kept safe for differences. Knowledge^of 
the problems of others and of ahen ways of hfe must become 
sufficiently general so that positive toleration becomes possible. 
Also necessary to respect for others is a certain minimum of 
security for oneself. Certain inequalities of opportunity between 
peoples must be levelled out, even if at some apparent sacrifice 
on the part of nations now more fortunate. A secure and happy 
world can be built only from secure and happy individuals. The 
roots of individual and of national and international disorganiza- 
tion are in part the same. Lippit and Hendry righdy say: 

A civilization is a thing that kneads and molds men. If the 
civilization to which we belong was brought low by the failure of 


individuals, then our question must be why, did our civilization not 
create a different type of individual? We must begin by recovering 
the animating power of our civilization which has become lost. We 
have been taking advantage of democracy’s tranquillity, its tolerance, 
its warmth. We have become parasites upon it. It has meant to us 
no more than a place where we were snug and secure Ukc a pas- 
senger on a ship. The passenger makes use of the ship and gives 
nothing in return. If the members of our civilization had degene- 
rated, against whom can we lodge a complaint? 

When Copernicus showed that the earth was not the centre of 
our universe he forced a revolution in the thinking of natural 
scientists and pliilosophers. Thinking in the United States about 
international affairs still rests upon the false premise that Western 
civihzation is the hub of the cultural universe. The Harvard 
report on general education, published in 1945, is in many respects 
a wise and indeed a noble document. Yet not one word is said 
of the need of the educated citizen to know something of Asiatic 
history and philosophy and art or of the natural resources of 
Africa or of non-European languages. History begins with the 
Greeks, and the significant achievements of human culture are 
hmited to the Mediterranean Basin, Europe, and America.^ A 
peaceful revolution must dethrone such parochiahsm. 

Small wonder that we continue to interpret non-Westem 
thought and action in terms of the categories of the West. We 
project our dominant concepts of the recent past — economics 
and pohtics and biology — instead of trying to grasp the more 
fundamental cultural patterns of which a given type of economic 
activity is merely one expression. It is these basic conceptions 
and the images a people has of itself and of others which anthro- 
pology can especially help to illumine. The anthropologist has 
had experience in penetrating the barriers of language, ideology, 
and nationahty in order to understand and to persuade. He 
reahzes that any piece of unfamihar behaviour is an expression of 
another people’s total cultural experience. 

It is fatal to all hopes for peace when Americans see every 
evidence of other nations’ different cultural assumptions as 
examples of their moral perfidy. The alternatives are not to agree 



or to reject; it is possible to accept other assumptions in the sense 
of facing the fact of their existence and understanding them. To 
the extent that both policy makers and pubhc realize that the 
values of any two societies in conflict cannot be suddenly altered 
by supposedly logical demonstration of their invalidity the danger 
of pathological suspicions on each side is lessened. Reciprocal 
misunderstandings grow by mutual stimulation unless each party 
will substitute the question “reasonable in terms of their 
premises?” for “reasonable?” (meaning: compatible with our 
own premises which have never been thought through or even 
brought to the light of consciousness). The genuine conflicts of 
interests between two or more powers could often be resolved 
through compromise were not irrational emotional forces mobil- 
ized through culture-bound misinterpretations of motives. Rela- 
tive to one group the other appear^ unreasonable, unable to see the 
logical consequences, folly, and immorality of its own actions, 
and acquires the character of an evil force that must be attacked. 

Of course, the realization on the part of the two nations that 
they are operating upon different premises does not always lead 
to sweetness and light. It is only a useful first step that camiot 
fail to diminish the power of the irrational. But premises may be 
different yet not incompatible or they may be different and in- 
compatible. In the case of the conflicting ideologies of the Soviet 
Union and the Western democracies, it may well be, as Northrop 
has suggested, that no stable equilibriiun is possible unless one 
culture destroys the other or, more probably, a new set of cultural 
assumptions is evolved which absorbs and reconciles what is 
permanently valuable to the human animal in both opposing ways 
of life. Even now there is common ground wliich could well be 
brought nearer the centre of bitter political discussion. For 
example, both the American people and the peoples of the Soviet 
Union are remarkable among the nations of the world for their 
faith in man’s capacity to manipulate his environment and control 
his fate. 

The shrinking of the world makes mutual understanding and 
respect on the part of different peoples imperative. vThe subtle 


diversities in the view of life of various peoples, their expectancies 
and images of themselves and of others, the differing psychological 
attitudes underlying their contrasting political institutions, and 
their generally differing ‘psychological nationality’ all combine 
to make it more difficult for nations to understand each other. It 
is the anthropologist’s duty to point out that these ‘mental’ forces 
have just as tangible effect as physical forces. 

The prime problem of the century is indeed whether world 
order is to be achieved through domination of a single nation 
that imposes its ways of life upon all others or through some other 
means that does not deprive the world of the richness of different 
cultures. World uniformity in culture would mean aesthetic and 
moral monotony. The anthropologist’s solution is unity in 
diversity: agreement on a set of principles for world morality, 
but respect and toleration for all activities that do not threaten 
world peace. The anthropologist regards the attainment of this 
course as tremendously difficult but not impossible. Anthro- 
pology can aid by criticizing the formal machinery for keeping 
the peace, by insisting that this take account of peoples’ sentiments, 
customs, and non-rational life rather than being thought of along 
purely legalistic lines. Anthropology can also help in education 
in the broadest sense. It can provide material for debunking 
potentially dangerous stereotypes of other peoples. It can assist 
in training experts in each country who have really fundamental 
knowledge of other countries, knowledge that goes beyond that 
of externals and permits the expert to interpret correctly the 
behaviour of other nations to his own people. In many ways, 
direct and indirect, anthropology can influence pubHc opinion in 
scientifically sound and practically healthy directions. Not least 
significant will be its demonstration of the basic unity of man- 
kind, in spite of arresting and interesting superficial divergence. 

Anthropology does not by any means have all the answers, 
but a public whose thinking has been clarified by anthropological 
knowledge will be somewhat better fitted to perceive the proper 
directions for national poHcy.^j^'Only those who are both well- 
informed and well-intentioned will have the understanding neces- 
sary for the building of bridges between different ways of life. A 



unifying survey of all cultural contributions and of all peoples 
will, in turn, influence the general mentality of men. By study- 
ing world cultures in this comparative setting anthropologists 
hope to promote a better understanding of the cultural values of 
other nations and other times, and thus help to create something 
of that spirit of tolerant understanding which is an essential 
condition of international harmony. 

If one looks at the record of human events from a perspective 
which is sufficiently wide in space and sufficiently long in time 
there can be no doubt that there are certain broad, over-all 
trends in history. One of these persistent tendencies is for the 
size and spatial extent of societies to be ever greater. The anthro- 
pologist will hardly question that eventually there will be, in 
some sense, a world society. The sole argument will be over the 
questions : How soon } After how much suffering and bloodshed } 

To draw the detailed blueprints for the poUtical and economic 
instruments which might implement a world order is not the 
province of the anthropologist. Obviously, the sustained colla- 
boration of economists, political scientists, lawyers, engineers, 
geographers, other specialists, and practical men of affairs from 
many lands will be required to devise the machinery with which 
men might build the new world. But inductions from anthro- 
pological data suggest certain basic principles which the social 
inventions must meet if they are to be workable. From their 
experience in studying societies as wholes, from experience with 
sharply contrasting peoples and cultures, the anthropologist and 
other social scientists have proved a few theorems which the 
statesman and the administrator will disregard at peril to the 

Under the necessity of being at once a student of economics, 
technology, religion, and aesthetics, the anthropologist has per- 
force learned the intricate interdependence of all segments of a 
people’s hfe. Although as a Jack-of-all-trades his work is usually 
crude, the anthropologist is at least tough-minded about academic 
abstractions. He knows at first hand the fallacy of the ‘economic 
man,’ the ‘political man,’ etc. Because his laboratory is the world 
of hving people at their ordinary daily tasks, the results of the 


anthropologist are not stated with the statistical refinements of 
the brass-instrument psychologist, but he perhaps has a more 
Hvely sense of the compHcations arising from an uncontrolled 
variety of stimuli — as opposed to the selected ones of the labora- 

For all these reasons the anthropologist will insist upon the 
stupidity of any policy that emphasizes political or economic 
factors at the expense of cultural and psychological factors. He 
will agree that geographical position, natural resources, present 
degree of industrialization, illiteracy rate, and countless other 
factors are of importance. But he will maintain that an approach 
which is purely geographical or economic is doomed to breed 
new confusion. No mechanical scheme for world government 
or an international police force will save the world. Something 
more than poHcemen have been found necessary for the main- 
tenance of order in all social organizations. 

The anthropologist will suspect that, not only some of his 
fellow specialists, but also the general American public will view 
the problems too exclusively in the light of reason. One of the 
most abiding traditions of this country is faith in reason. This is 
a glorious tradition — so long as people do not ludicrously over- 
estimate how much reason can accompHsh in a given limited 
time. When one minutely scrutinizes one's own behaviour, one 
invariably sees how large a proportion of one’s acts are deter- 
mined in accord with the logic of the sentiments. If all men 
everywhere shared precisely the same sentiments the great role 
of the non-logical elements in action might not lead into great 
difficulty. But the sentiments of men are determined not only 
by those great dilemmas which face all humanity, but also by the 
peculiar historical experience, the peculiar problems posed by the 
varying physical environments of each people. 

As a result of the accidents of history every people not only has 
a sentiment structure which is to some degree unique, but also a 
more or less coherent body of characteristic presuppositions about 
the world. This last is really a borderland between reason and 
feeling. And the trouble is that the most critical premises are so 
often unstated — even by the intellectuals of the group. 



And so more than the external facts about a nation must be 
taken into account/ Their sentiments and the unconscious assump- 
tions which they characteristically make about the world are also 
data which must be discovered and respected. These will all of 
course be linked with reUgion, sesthetic tradition, and other more 
conscious aspects of the cultural tradition of the people. To 
understand all of these intangibles, and to cope with them in 
planning, the student must have recourse to history. It is not 
enough for science to explain the world of nature. Education 
must include the ‘intangible’ environment in which we live. 

^ The problem of how to minimize and to control aggressive 
impulses is in many ways the central problem of world peace. 
This problem must be approached from every possible angle. 
One, though only one, way of preventing wars is to lessen the 
irritants making for tension within each society. This means, 
first of aU, assuring a certain minimum of economic well-being 
and of physical health to all populations in the world. Assuredly, 
however, the task does not end here. A people can be ever so 
prosperous and yet seething with hostility. Norway was poorer 
than Germany in 1939, yet had no war-minded groups. 

Some tilings are now known about the sources and dynamics 
of hostility. Psychological bases in the individual for potential 
aggression are created by the deprivations incident to socializa- 
tion. No society fails to box the child’s ears at some point, though 
they differ greatly in the manner and the timing. Some child- 
hood disciplines are probably exaggerated or needless. Others 
are carried out with avoidable brutahty. To quote Lawrence 
Frank again : 

As long as we believe that human nature is fixed and unchangeable 
and continue to accept the theological conceptions of man as one 
who must be disciplined, coerced, and terrorized or supernaturally 
assisted into being a decent human being and a participating member 
of society, so long will we continue to create warped, twisted, 
distorted personalities, who continually threaten, if they do not 
frustrate and break down, all our efforts toward social order. 

Some frustration and deprivation is inevitable in the production 
of responsible adults. But the resultant tensions can be drained 


off more effectively than most human societies have done in the 
past through socially useful competition, through socially harm- 
less releases for aggression, as in sports, and in other, as yet 
undiscovered, ways. 

Those who are insecure themselves manifest hostility towards 
others. It will be by diminishing both the realistic and unreaHstic 
causes for anxiety in the world that the psychological bases for 
war can be controlled. Of course, war is not the only direction 
which violence can take. Ordinarily aggression release within a 
society is inversely proportional to outlets outside. Many 
measures will merely shift the currents of hostihty — not eliminate 
them. Nor is aggression, whether overt or masked, the only 
possible adjustivc response to anxiety. Withdrawal, passivity, 
sublimation, conciliation, flight, and other responses are some- 
times effective in reducing the strains of those who have been 
deprived or threatened. Some cultures, at their flowering, have 
been able to channel most of their free-floating hostility into 
socially creative channels: literature and the arts, public works, 
invention, geographical exploration, and the like. In most cul- 
tures, most of the time, the greater part of this energy is diffused 
into various streams: into the small angry outbursts of daily 
living; into constructive activities; into periodic wars. The 
destructive aggression, which seems to appear with some regu- 
larity after a major catastrophe to a society, breaks out only after 
an interval. Fascism did not arise immediately after Caporetto 
nor Nazism immediately after the treaty of Versailles. Finally, it 
should be noted that, since it takes two or more nations to make a 
war, a psychological climate of uncertainty, confusion, and apathy 
can endanger peace as much as dammed-up hostility. 

War is a power struggle, but not simply for the control of 
markets and manufacturing processes. Economic and social wel- 
fare do not, as the popular conception would have it, depend 
always upon political power. The standard of living in Switzer- 
land and Denmark was higher than that in many of the Great 
Powers in the interval between the wars. War must also be 
thought of as arising from points of view, ways of looking at the 
world, for all deep-seated motives express themselves indirectly 



in biasing or loading the personal outlook. The quest for power, 
the preferred character forms of a group, its economic produc- 
tivity, its ideology, its patterns of leadership are all so closely inter- 
woven that a change in any one of these factors means an alteration 
in the others. The best perspective from which present world 
confusion can be viewed is the cross-cultural one. From this 
vantage point one may see both the characteristic illusions of 
every civilization and the fertilizing value of contrasting cultures. 

Although embedded in the past, this network of sentiments 
and assumptions looks to the future. Morale, whether individual 
or national or international, is largely a structure of expectancies. 
The nature of expectations is almost as crucial as the external facts 
in predicting consequences. In war-time patriotic citizens will 
undergo major privations with little complaint. In peace-time 
the same deprivations may lead to riots or widespread social 
unrest. The external facts arc the same, but the expectations are 
different. Much of what is happening in Europe and Asia depends 
not upon food shortages, the precise form of newly instituted 
political arrangements, the rebuilding of factories or other condi- 
tions as such, but rather upon the goodness of fit between these 
conditions and the anticipations of the people in question. 

As the anthropologist puzzles the cross-cultural record he can 
hardly fail to be struck by the importance of the time-factor. 
Capacity for cultural change, indeed for sharp reversals, on the 
part of the same biological group seems almost unUmited. The 
mistake of many well-meaning social reformers has not always 
been limited to that of attempting sumptuary legislation. Some- 
times the measures have been wise enough for the group intended, 
but all has been lost through undue haste. Make haste slowly is 
usually a good motto for those who wish to institute or direct 
social change. Because of the enormous tenacity of non-logical 
habits, the hasty attempt to alter intensifies resistance or even 
produces reaction. Plans for the new world must indeed be vast 
and bold, but there must be great patience and tireless practicality 
in carrying them out. 

This is a note of caution but not of pessimism. For perhaps the 
greatest lesson which anthropology can teach is that of the bound- 


less plasticity of ‘human nature/ The exuberant variety of solu- 
tions which have been devised to the same problem (say ‘sex’ or 
‘property’) is truly amazing and makes one eternally sceptical of 
any argument couched in the form, “That would never work — it 
is contrary to human nature.” However, some of the more en- 
thusiastic exponents of cultural determinism and of education 
forget how many generations and indeed millennia have gone 
into the experiments in human Hving carried out by various 
societies. Homo sapiens will, under the right conditions, eventually 
do almost anything — but the time required before a particular 
result is achieved may be very long indeed. 

Is prolonged collaboration between different peoples possible.^ 
Anthropology knows of no definitive evidence to the contrary. 
Certainly there arc isolated instances of peaceful and sometimes 
long-continued co-operation between groups speaking different 
languages and, less frequently, between groups of different 
physical appearance. Nor have these invariably involved relation- 
ships of subordination. 

This book has tried to steer a middle course between ‘economic 
determinism’ and ‘psychological determinism.’ In recent times 
one group of students of human affairs has loudly proclaimed that 
everything is due to situational factors, especially technology and 
economic pressures. Another group — which has lately become 
increasingly fashionable — says in effect, “Tools and economic 
systems are but the expression of human personalities. The key 
to the world’s problems lies not in new tecloniques of distribution 
nor in more equitable access to raw materials, or even in a stable 
international organization. All we need is a saner method of child- 
rearing, a wiser education.” Each of these ‘explanations’ by 
itself is one-sided and barren. Probably the tendency to over- 
simplification in these two directions Corresponds to what we 
find in contrasting schools of historians who, ever since Greek 
times at least, have seen history either as the process of impersonal 
forces or as a drama of personaHties. Either conception has a 
strong appeal to human beings who crave simple answers to 
complex questions, but neither alone tells the whole story; we 
need both. 



Both the external and the more internal aspects of the problem 
are tremendous. When disaster threatens, when experience is felt 
ever menacing, men may do one of two things or both. They 
may change the situation — the external environment — or they 
may change themselves. The first path, broadly speaking, is the 
only one which has been taken to any appreciable extent by 
Western European peoples in recent centuries. The second path, 
broadly speaking, is the one which has been taken by Asiatic 
peoples and our American Indians. Neither path, by itself, leads 
to a balanced good life for the majority of men. To act on the 
unstated premise that cither one or the other will save us is the 
tragic consequence of our habituation to the Aristotelian mode of 
thought which thinks in terms of mutually exclusive alternatives. 
Both roads are necessary and open. To have democracy we must 
have personalities that arc able to be free. However, no scheme 
of socialization or formal education which makes for freedom of 
the personality can guarantee organisms which are free from the 
need to fear and the need to fight unless the social and economic 
structure makes these orientations realistically rewarding. 

The internal change must arise from the development of a faith 
which should give meaning and purpose to living, but which 
could be believed in by a reasonable man familiar with what we 
have learned of our world by scientific methods. As wide an 
induction as anthropology can offer is that every society des- 
perately needs morality, in the sense of common standards, and 
religion, in the sense of orientations towards such inescapable 
problems as death, individual responsibility, and other ultimate 
value attitudes. Religion in this sense is absolutely necessary to 
promote social solidarity and individual security by affirming and 
symbolically enacting a system of common purposes. In my 
opinion a fiith is required which would not force intellectual 
reservation or conflict or necessitate experience being divided into 
water-tight compartments. Such a faith cannot to-day, I believe, 
successfully be based upon supernatural premises. It must needs 
be a secular religion. There is nothing whatsoever in the sciences 
of human behaviour which denies the existence of ‘absolutes’ in 
and for human conduct. However, a humanistic science does 


assert that these absolutes can and must be vaHdated by empirical 
observation rather than by documents pretending to supernatural 
authority. Charles Morris, in Paths of Life, has pioneered the 
quest for a secular world rehgion. Others are beginning to think 
along not dissimilar lines. The difficulties are many; the need 
overwhelming. A ‘secular religion* does not necessarily mean 
‘atheism’ in the proper meaning of that word. Many scientists 
who prefer the naturaUstic to the supematurahstic point of view 
beheve in God as described by the philosopher, Whitehead, in 
Process and Reality. They are convinced that the universe is 
orderly and, in some sense, a moral universe. Their quarrel with 
the supematuralists is as to how man can discover and live by the 
divine order. 

Man must humbly but with courage accept responsibility for 
the destiny of mankind. Any other postulate is a frightened 
retreat and, in the long run, a retreat which leads to the blank wall 
or the precipice of chaos unthinkable. Man may be able to under- 
stand and control himself as much as he has demonstrably under- 
stood and controlled non-organic nature and domestic animals. 
At least it is worth the trial. This is the great emotional adventure 
for the second half of the twentieth century — that “rife idea of 
transcendent might” which must make all forms of exploitation 
seem commonplace or, rather, vulgar and uninteresting. To this 
adventure the ‘study of man’ can contribute not only some of 
the guiding directions, but hkewise the techniques for amassing 
much of the information which is as essential as principle and 

The development of a flourishing science of man will wait upon 
fuller pubhc understanding of the need for anthropology and its 
kindred sciences and adequate support. The emphasis upon 
material things in American culture and the stupendous success 
of physical science have tended to draw the best brains into law, 
business, and natural science. Even if the average anthropologist 
were as smart as the average physicist significant research among 
human beings takes a sizeable number of people, time, and money. 
One can never do with even the best corporal’s guard what one 
can do with an army. Yet American society spent more for a 



single telescope at Mount Wilson than was spent in three years 
on all studies of human life (excluding medicine). In pre-war 
years Americans spent ten times as much each year in collecting 
zoological and botanical specimens as in collecting irreplaceable 
data concerning the human cultures that are rapidly disappearing 
before the spread of European civilization. Yet, as Mortimer 
Graves has observed : 

The essential fact is that man^s major problems are not at all in 
the natural sciences but in such areas as race relations, labor relations, 
the control of organized power for social purposes, the establish- 
ment of the philosophical bases of life, the modernization of social 
and political structure, the coordination of efficiency with democracy 
— all the problems raised in man’s adjustment to the scientific, social 
dynamic world in which he lives. Public health, for example, is 
not primarily a problem of learning more about disease in the strictly 
biological sense — it is primarily a problem in social science, a prob- 
lem of putting effectively to work in the lives of men what is already 
known about medicine. At the technological level there is probably 
already enough known to give everybody a job with a full dinner 
pail.' /What is needed is not more physical science but better social 
organization. What is necessary is to force some of the medieval 
superstition out of social and political customs, and there is no sign 
that this will be done in the laboratories of physics and chemistry. 

. Merc advance in these and similar sciences without concomitant 
solution of more important social, emotional, and intellectual prob- 
lems can lead only to more maladjustment, more misunderstanding, 
more social unrest and consequently more war and revolution. 

There must be bold experiments in social Uving and a search 
for fresh integrating principles appropriate to a world which 
communication and economic interdependence have made one — 
for the first time in human history. If we are to do more than 
keep a finger in the dike, if we are to build upward out of the 
flood as well as stemming the tide of human misery and frustra- 
tion, we must inject the study of human behaviour, of the indi- 
vidual and his society, into die social process. This study must 
include the objective investigation of human values. People are 
not just driven by situational pressures; they are also pulled by 
the ideahzed goals set by their culture. As Ralph Barton Perry 


has said, if ideals make any difference at all in human life there 
must be certain occasions in which they make all the diftbrence. 

Contrasting human needs, in so far as they arc characteristic of 
whole groups rather than of specific individuals, arise primarily 
from variant value systems. As has been said so often, the crisis 
of our age is a crisis of value. There is little hope of creating new 
social entities which shall be more stable than the old until new, 
wider, and more complex relationships can be built upon values 
that are not only generally recognized and deeply felt, but that 
also have some scientific warrant. 

No tenet of intellectual folklore has been so damaging to our 
life and times as the cliche that ‘science has nothing to do with 
values.’ If the consideration of values is to be the exclusive prop- 
erty of religion and the humanities a scientific understanding of 
human experience is impossible. But it is absurd to claim a logical 
necessity for such an abdication.‘'''Valucs arc social facts of a certain 
type wloich can be discovered and described as neutrally as a 
linguistic structure or the technique of salmon fishing. Those 
values that arc instrumental in character can be tested in terms of 
their consequences. Arc the means, in fact, effective in reaching 
the designated ends? 

When it comes to intrinsic or ‘absolute’ values it must be 
admitted that methods and concepts arc not yet available for 
rigorously determining the varying extent to which these arc 
congruent with the facts of nature as scientifically established. 
This is, however, because until very recently scientists have un- 
critically accepted exclusion from this field. In principle, a 
scientific basis for values is discoverable. Some values appear to 
be as much ‘given’ by nature as the fact that bodies heavier than 
air fall. No society has ever approved suffering as a good thing in 
itself — as a means to an end, yes; as punishment, as a means to the 
ends of society, yes. We don’t have to rely upon supernatural 
revelation to discover that sexual access achieved through vio- 
lence is bad. Tliis is as much a fact of general observation as the 
fact that different objects have different densities. The observa- 
tion that truth and beauty are universal, transcendental human 
values is as much one of the ‘givens’ of human life as are birth and 



death. It is the great merit of F. C. S. Northrop to have 
pointed out the essential generahzation : “The norms for ethical 
conduct are to be discovered from the ascertainable knowledge 
of man’s nature, just as the norms for building a bridge are to be 
derived from physics.” 

To work out tliis problem in detail will require, at very least, 
a generation — if the best minds in many countries will give them- 
selves to the task. There are endless compHcations and possi- 
bihties for distortion, especially through over-simphfication. The 
key question is that of the universal human values. Justifica- 
tion for other values will turn upon the matter of appropriateness 
to particular sorts of individuals or to specific cultures. Some 
values — for instance, whether I prefer cabbage or spinach — 
involve taste only and are socially indifferent. The discovery and 
ranking of the universal values can never rest simply upon count- 
ing and placement in an assumed scale of cultural advancement. 
The facts are very complex. We arc part of one of perhaps twenty 
htcrate cultures. However, one of our ideal patterns, monogamy, 
though practised by only about one-fourth of described cultures, 
is shared with sonic of the most ‘backward’ tribes of the earth. 
Nevertheless, in spite of all the difficulties, the methods of scientific 
analysis can be applied to human values with enormous hope of 


Anthropology is no longer just the science of the long-ago and 
far-away. This very perspective is uniquely valuable in investi- 
gating the nature and causes of human conflict and in devising 
means for its reduction. Its all-embracing character gives anthro- 
pology a strategic position for deterrnining what factors will create 
a world community of distinct cultures and hold it together 
against disruption. It has methods for revealing the principles 
that underhe each culture, for deciding to what extent a culture 
possesses people. It is singularly emancipated from the sway of 
the locally accepted. When asked how he happened to discover 
relativity, Einstein replied, “By challenging an axiom.” As a 
consequence of their cross-cultural research anthropologists are 
freer to disbelieve something that appears, even to their fellow 


scientists of the same culture, necessarily true. In the present stage 
of world history the apparently unbridgeable gap between several 
powerful and competing ways of life can be surmounted only 
by those who can constructively doubt the traditionally obvious. 

'"As Lyman Bryson concludes in Science and Freedom, “man’s 
toughest problem is himself.” The danger of atomic and other 
new weapons hes not in the weapons themselves but in the will 
to use them. It is the sources of this will, as varyingly conditioned 
by different cultures, that must be investigated, understood, and 
controlled. Science must create a climate in which it can itself 
operate without widespread destruction. The science of man, by 
applying to human behaviour those standard procedures that 
have proved so successful in dealing with other aspects of nature, 
might produce some of the ingredients necessary to the creation 
of such a climate. It cannot do it alone, even if anthropology 
joins forces with psychology, sociology, and human geography. 
It camiot make its own full contribution unless public under- 
standing and support add greatly to its resources in manpower 
and funds. If reliable answers arc to be joined to right questions, 
the research that has been carried out is to the research that needs 
to be done as the film of atmosphere is to the full thickness of this 

Edwin Embree has eloquently answered the most usual objec- 
tion to this programme : 

Many people think it visionary to try to improve our own lives 
and relationships. They feel they have closed the whole subject 
with “You can't change human nature." 

Well, we haven't changed the nature of the physical universe, but 
by understanding it we have turned it in myriad ways to our service 
and our convenience. We didn’t set aside the force of gravity when 
we learned to fly. We didn’t have to amend the laws of stress and 
strain, we only had to understand them, in order to build bridges 
and skyscrapers or to drive engines a hundred miles an hour. We 
didn’t change the climate, yet by central heating we make ourselves 
comfortable through the coldest winters and by air-cooUng devices 
we are beginning to have equal comfort in the hottest summers. 
We didn’t alter the laws of biology to breed fleet horses and fat 
hogs, to grow corn and wheat of far finer quality than anything 



known in a wild state, even to devise such serviceable hybrids as 
mules and grapefruit. 

So with human nature it is not a matter of “changing” the 
fundamental drives and instincts; it is simply a matter of understand- 
ing these forces and turning them to more constructive and whole- 
some channels than the strifes and frustrations that make up so much 
of life, even in the midst of our material plenty. 

The new stage of development of the social sciences, still largely 
unrealized by the general public, may prove to have consequences 
as revolutionary as those of atomic energy. However, it would 
be fantastic to anticipate any immediate moulding of world 
civilization to human desires and needs. Cultures and beliefs, 
attitudes, and feelings of men change slowly even in the acce- 
lerated modern tempo. It makes for sanity to consider some 
historical facts. As Leslie White reminds us, only about 2 per 
cent, of human history has elapsed since the origin of agriculture, 
•35 per cent, smee the invention of the first alphabet, *009 per 
cent, since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Contem- 
porary social science is merely a lusty infant, howling loudly 
because the world is still deaf. Still, he promises much if he be 
neither starved nor spoiled. 

Present ignorance and the crudity of social-science methods and 
theories must not be glossed over. Humanity which is gradually 
abandoning the hope of the kingdom of heaven should resist 
the blandishments of cheap messiahs preacliing an easy achieve- 
ment of the kingdom of earth overnight. To some degree cul- 
tures make themselves. From the short-range point of view man 
is still more or less at the mercy of irreversible trends he did not 
wilfully create. Nevertheless, in longer range, social science offers 
the possibility of imderstanding and of prediction, of speeding up 
desired trends, of greatly increased opportimities for successful 
adjustment if not of control. 

Human life should remain as a home of many rooms. But the 
world with all its variousness can still be one in its allegiapce to 
the elementary common purposes shared by all peoples. Those 
boundaries that block mutual understanding will be worn dim by 


much international traffic in ideas, in exchange of goods and 
services. Within each society the use of scientific methods in the 
study of human relations can adjust our culture patterns to the 
changes brought about by technology and world-wide economic 
interdependence. This can happen. It probably will happen. 
But when? 



To some people with neat academic minds the fields of knowledge 
dealing with human beings are laid out like a series of formal 
gardens with walls between. According to a recent article in a 
professional journal the territories cultivated by the various social 
sciences are as follows : 

sociology : the relatedness of human beings 
psychology: human behaviour under controlled conditions 
social psychology : human behaviour under actual life-conditions 

history : unique events and their connexions through time 
economics : subsistence behaviour, its forms and processes 
poHtical science: control behaviour, its forms and processes 
anthropology: basic anatomical and cultural hkenesses and dif- 

Such a map of these gardens of learning is useful in describing 
the theoretical lay-out as it developed historically. Some scholars 
indeed visualize these liigh, tight walls as actually existing, and 
defend their frontiers against all poachers. But in actual practice 
some walls were never built or were so low they were easily 
leaped over by the more intrepid students; others have crumbled 
in the past decade or two. But, just because some students of 
man have believed in the reahty of these walls, some of the most 
precious flowers in the gardens have failed to bear fruit. Moreover 
some rich lands were never fenced in because their ovmership was 
in dispute. So they have been little cultivated, for the hardy 
scholar who ventured to follow his problem outside the walls of 
his own territory was punished by the suspicion and indignation 



of his more conservative colleagues. Hence, between and beyond 
the boundaries of the several social sciences there is a vast no- 

The unstated assumption has been that human behaviour took 
place in a series of watertight compartments. Hence the economist 
must study ‘economic man,’ the poUtical scientist ‘political man,’ 
the sociologist ‘social man,’ etc. To the anthropologist, accus- 
tomed to working among primitive groups where trading is often 
a reUgious procedure and ‘government’ inseparable from the 
rest of social life, such distinct and separate categories have ap- 
peared to result from the rigidity of academic organization. To 
him such classification appears to impede the following of the 
problem wherever it leads. Scholars in other fields also have 
become increasingly dissatisfied with carrying their investiga- 
tions only so far as the conventional boundaries and abandoning 
them upon an intellectual dumping ground. 

As to what students of man actually do, the tight distinctions 
are disappearing. Already there are scientists of whom it is arbi- 
trary to say, “He is a social psychologist,” rather than “He is a 
sociologist,” or “He is an anthropologist.” The department of 
Social Relations at Harvard merges the fields of social anthro- 
pology, sociology, social and clinical psychology. A few psychia- 
trists can as well be called anthropologists. A number of men are 
almost equally ‘human geographers’ and anthropologists. 
Certain physical anthropologists teach human anatomy in medical 

There are still, however, distinctions in both theory and prac- 
tice which are relevant to an understanding of anthropology’s 
role in the contemporary scene. The division of labour between 
anthropology and other studies of human life, as well as between 
the different branches of anthropology, is determined by the 
‘what,’ on the one hand, and by the ‘how,’ on the other. 

The most obvious division of territory is indicated by saying 
that anthropologists investigate the biology, history, language, 
psychology, sociology, economics, government, and philosophy 
of primitive peoples. The history of primitives is known only 
for the brief time spanned by the memories and oral traditions of 



men plus whatever scant references exist in European historical 
documents and the Hmited, though useful and important, evi- 
dence supplied by archaeology. The anthropologist must recon- 
struct liistory on the slender basis of the sequence of artifacts in 
time and their distribution in space. Because the anthropologist 
working with primitives can seldom take living subjects into a 
laboratory, he cannot perform the kind of experiments which are 
the hall-mark of psychology and of medical research. Since 
primitives do not have written constitutions nor international 
cartels, certain fields of investigation of the poHtical scientist and 
economist have remained outside the anthropologist’s province. 

A closer examination reveals that some groups conventionally 
allotted to anthropology are not primitive. The Maya of Middle 
America had a partly written language. The archaeology of 
China, the Near East, and Egypt has been considered almost as 
much the bailiwick of the anthropologist as of the OrientaHst 
and Egyptologist. Moreover, anthropologists for at least a cen- 
tury have resisted as a matter of principle any attempt to restrict 
their domain to that of ‘liigher barbarology.’ Though the study 
of European and American communities by anthropologists is 
less than twenty years old, and the anthropological exploration 
of modern industry still younger, EngUsh and German anthro- 
pologists had invaded the sacrosanct territory of classical scholars 
considerably before 1900. Their point of view shed new illumina- 
tion upon Greek and Roman civihzation. By 1920 the French 
scholar, Marcel Granet, was examining Chinese civilization from 
the anthropological angle. In physical anthropology the restric- 
tion to primitives has been even less marked. Anthropometry (a 
standard technique for measuring human beings) was developed 
among and applied to Europeans on a grand scale. 

From the point of view of subject matter the sole feature which 
has distinguished every branch of anthropology and which has 
not been characteristic of any of the other human studies is the 
use of comparative data. The historian is ordinarily a historian of 
England or of Japan or of the nineteenth century or of the Renais- 
sance. In so far as he makes systematic comparisons between the 
histories of different countries or areas or periods, he becomes a 


philosopher of history — or an anthropologist ! A famous his- 
torian, Eduard Meyer, assigns indeed to anthropology the task of 
determining the universal features in human history. With a few 
exceptions, the sociologist has Hmited himself to Western civili2a- 
tion. The economist knows only the systems of production and 
exchange in societies where money and markets prevail. Although 
the study of ‘comparative government’ has become fasliionable, 
the poHtical scientist still thinks in terms of constitutions and 
written laws. The horizons of the traditional linguist have been 
bounded by Indo-European and Semitic languages. Only of late, 
under the influence of anthropology, have psychologists and 
psychiatrists seen that the standards of normal and abnormal 
‘human nature’ are in part relative to time, place, and people. 
To the physician human anatomy and physiology have meant 
the structures and functionings of modern white Euro-Americans, 

But the anthropologist long ago took all mankind for his 
province. The physical anthropologist studies the hair-form of 
Negroes only to compare it with that of Chinese and whites. 
The archaeologist never reports upon an excavation without 
making comparisons, and in writing his report he arranges his 
data with a view to other archaeologists using these data for com- 
parative purposes. To the anthropological linguist the description 
of an unusual sound or grammatical form is not an end in itself, 
but the establishment of a point in a range of variation. The 
ethnologist is interested in a specific type of clan organization as 
one link in a chain of evidence that indicates connexions between 
two or more peoples at some past time. The social anthropologist 
analyses witchcraft belief and practice to show how human beings 
handle the same fundamental problem in different ways or to 
demonstrate the universahty of some social process. 

To-day psychology, some parts of medicine, sociology, human 
geography, and, to a lesser extent, linguistics, law, philosophy, 
and other sciences are using comparative data more and more. 
Psychologists study child-rearing in primitive societies and comb 
anthropological literature for data of perception, learning, and 
aesthetics. Psychiatrists have developed great interest m the types 
of mental illnesses found in various non-European groups and in 



ways these people handle such aberrations. Other physicians find 
it profitable to discover what diseases occur in tribes that have 
had httle contact with Europeans and what ‘racial’ immunities 
exist. Sociologists, unlike human geographers, have done little 
field work among primitives, but the contemporary sociologist 
studies anthropological fact and theory as part of his training. 
The sociologist, psychologist, and psychiatrist pilfer the factual 
storehouse of the anthropologist to test a theory, to illustrate a 
point, or to find a new question that needs formulation and 

History, in the broadest sense, is the attempt to describe past 
events as accurately, concretely, and completely as possible; to 
establish the sequence of those events; to depict any patterns in 
the sequences. Thus history is as much a method as a separate 
science, and anthropology has its historical side. The course of 
human development, the dispersal of mankind over the face of 
the earth, and the evolution of cultures are historical inquiries. 

Psychology and anthropology are the two main bridges be- 
tween the Hfe sciences and studies of human behaviour. Physio- 
logy and medicine study man as an animal. Sociology, economics, 
and government study man’s actions and their results. Only 
psychology, psychiatry, and anthropology unite the two ap- 
proaches by being simultaneously interested in behaviour and its 
biological foundation. Similarly, anthropology and human geo- 
graphy help bridge the gap between the physical sciences and the 
social sciences. The anthropologist and the geographer are both 
interested in man’s adjustment to climate, natural resources, and 

Of those who study man as an animal, the physical anthro- 
pologist stands out for his insistence on measurement and on deal- 
ing with a sizeable number of cases. The student of extinct or 
fossil animals (the palaeontologist) often has only a few specimens 
to go on. Medical researchers, except in the field of public 
health, have only recently begun to see the necessity for statistical 
treatment. Anatomists, under the influence of physical anthro- 
pology, have begun to deal with graphs and curves of variation, 
but they still Hke to report on a dissection of one or a few cadavers. 


The anthropologist differs from the doctor in studying the well 
more than the sick. 

The difference in outlook between psychologist and anthro- 
pologist arises primarily out of the fact that the psychologist has 
his eye upon the individual, the anthropologist upon the group 
and upon the individual as a member of a group. The contrast 
with the geographer is also one of focus and emphasis. The 
geographer cares about individuals only incidentally, if at all. He 
looks to the technology that a people has developed and to the 
ways in which that people has altered the natural landscape by 
means of it. He deals with physiques and vital statistics only to 
the extent that these appear to reflect temperature extremes or soil 
qualities. For the rituals, the arts, and the linguistic habits, which 
intrigue the anthropologist, he has only the faintest concern. 

In view of the fact that they are ostensibly interested in many 
of the same problems, the extent to which sociologists and anthro- 
pologists have maintained fundamentally distinctive approaches 
is one of the more curious facts in the history of Western thought. 
The sociological attitude has tended towards the practical and 
present, the anthropological towards pure understanding and the 
past. Anthropology developed in the classes; sociology in the 
masses. A rich man’s hobby can permit itself the luxury of 
aesthetic exultation in fascinatingly different and complex 
materials. The anthropologist has also been considered less 
socially dangerous by the conservative because he was ‘a gentle- 
man’ and preoccupied with the long-ago and the far-away. 

Even to-day in a joint gathering it is comparatively easy to spot 
the two species. They talk differently; they even have a different 
look about them. This contrast may be traced to the differing 
origins of the two subjects, to the varying motivations that lead 
men and women to sociology or anthropology, and to the 
different intellectual affiliations of the two groups. Anthropology 
was created largely by individuals who had been trained in 
tough-minded empirical sciences Uke medicine, biology, and 
geology. Sociology grew from theology and philosophy, where 
abstract reasoning reigns supreme. Sociologists have had many 
personal affiliations with social workers and reformers and 



philosophers. On the other hand, the biases of anthropologists have 
been in the direction of pure observation. They are still, unfor- 
tunately, distrustful of talking much about concepts, methods, 
and theories. An unkind critic has said that sociology was “the 
science with the maximum of methods and the minimum of 
results.” Anthropologists have often failed to see the forest for 
the trees, whereas one sometimes wonders if sociologists recognize 
that such a thing as a tree exists. These generalizations must be 
regarded, of course, as tendency rather than literal fact. While 
the word ‘sociologist’ is often an epithet in the mouth of the 
anthropologist, the two have grown noticeably closer in recent 
years. The work of certain great European sociologists, such as 
Emile Durkheim, has long been so admired by anthropologists 
that they have tried to claim these men for their own. 

The sciences are commonly divided into physical (physics, 
chemistry, geology, etc.); biological (botany, zoology, medicine, 
etc.); social (economics, sociology, etc.). Sometimes the physical 
and biological sciences are lumped as ‘natural sciences’ with 
which the ‘social sciences’ are usually contrasted unfavourably. 
Indeed, some would say that the social studies are not and even 
cannot become sciences. This view is a curious reflection of the 
ignorance and prejudices of past centuries. It was once held that 
to study God’s special creation, man, was impious, or that human 
behaviour was in its essence unpredictable because all the data 
were ‘subjective.’ Any scientist, however, should know that 
data are never ‘subjective’ or ‘intangible’ — it is our ways of look- 
ing at them which may or may not be ‘tangible’ and ‘objective.’ 
The social sciences are admittedly immature; this is understand- 
able, for they are also young. 

History is primarily one of the humanities, but it is also, to a 
growing extent, a social science. Government or ‘poHtical 
science’ is ordinarily considered a social science, but its resem- 
blances to history and law are so striking that the assignment is 
disputable. Certainly first-hand observation has thus far played a 
very small role in this field. Some psychologists are biological 
scientists; some are social scientists. Anthropology cannot be 
forced into any one of the categories. The archaeologist to a 


considerable degree works and thinks like a geologist or a his- 
torian. The procedures of the anthropologist who is studying the 
physical environment of a certain tribe can scarcely be dis- 
tinguished from those of the human geographer. The physical 
anthropologist is inevitably one kind of human biologist. 

Sometliing must also be said of the difference in approach of 
anthropology and the humanities. In general, the humanities 
look backward, whereas anthropology looks forward. The same 
questions are probed, but the methods are different. Art and 
science equally try to render experience intelligible. To the artist, 
however, Sitting Bull is the dramatic exemplification of the whole 
struggle of the Indians against the white man. For the anthro- 
pologist, Sitting Bull disappears in the mass of Plains Indian 
chieftains, to be understood in terms of all our knowledge of the 
role of the chief, of various situational factors at that time, as well 
as in terms of liis own particular life history. The humanities 
approach general questions through particular persons or inci- 
dents. Anthropology deals with particulars in the framework of 

Many writers appear to be resentful of the encroachments of 
scientific students of man upon a territory that has been con- 
sidered the property of dramatists, novelists, and, lately, of journa- 
Hsts. It must be admitted at once that great novelists and drama- 
tists, drawing upon the long traditions of their craft, are much 
more adept at laying bare the mainsprings of human action than 
are anthropologists. If a friend of mine wants to find out in a 
short time what governs the actions of rural Poles, I should cer- 
tainly send him to Ladislas Reymont’s novel The Peasants and not 
to the social-science classic The Polish Peasant, by Thomas and 
Znaniecki. Malinowski’s best monographs on the Trobrianders 
are not in a class with Willa Gather’s My Antonia or Rebecca 
West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon so far as conveying with 
imaginative reahty the inner workings of a society and the 
motivation of individual actors in that society. 

But even the very greatest artists offer no way of checking their 
conclusions except that of subjective conviction. The fact that a 
novelist can profoundly stir the feelings does not prove that he 



is telling verifiable truth. Some famous dramatists are notably 
restricted to private worlds that are moving and interesting but 
narrow. The artist lays great weight on intuition and inspiration, 
while the anthropologist is grateful for liis ‘hunches,’ but does not 
accept them until they have been tested by rigorous methods. 
By offering ways to scrutinize his conclusions, and by minimizing 
personal bias through the use of standard methods of investiga- 
tion, the anthropologist presents insights which, though more 
abstract and hence less immediately gripping, have certain strong 

What is the difference in the approach of a good reporter and 
a good field-anthropologist? They have much in common — in 
the obstacles they must surmount to meet the people they want 
to meet, in the care they must take in choosing their informants, 
and in their regard for accurate recording of what was said and 
done. It is high praise for one anthropologist to say to another, 
“That was good reporting.” The difference arises from the pur- 
poses for which the two accounts are intended. The reporter 
must be interesting. The anthropologist is obHged to record the 
tiresome along with the flashy. The reporter must always think 
of what will engage his audience, of what will be intelligible to 
them in terms of their ways of Ufe. The first responsibiHty of the 
anthropologist is to set down events as seen by the people he is 

The point is that writers and scientists have different ways of 
attacking the same problem, but it is no either-or matter. Both 
approaches are needed, for each has its limitations and each 
contributes its special enhghtenments. 

The usual major division of anthropology is into physical and 
cultural. Physical anthropology includes primate palaeontology 
(the description of the extinct varieties of man and his close 
animal relatives) ; human evolution (the process of development 
of human types, beginning with man’s non-human ancestors) ; 
anthropometry (the techniques of human measurement) ; soma- 
tology (description of living varieties of man, of sex differences, 
and of individual physical variations); racial anthropology 
(classification of mankind into races, racial history of man, race 


mixture); comparative studies of growth; and constitutional 
anthropology (the study of the predispositions of bodily types to 
certain kinds of diseases and behaviour — for instance, criminal 
behaviour). Cultural anthropology includes archaeology (study 
of the remains of past times) ; ethnography (the pure description 
of the habits and customs of Hving peoples) ; ethnology (the com- 
parative study of peoples past and present) ; folklore (the collec- 
tion and analysis of drama, music, and tales preserved by oral 
tradition); social anthropology (study of cultural process and 
social structure); linguistics (the study of dead and Hving lan- 
guages); and culture and personaHty (the relation between a 
distinctive way of life and a characteristic psychology). AppHed 
anthropology is a way of selecting and using the data from both 
the physical and cultural studies, for dealing with modem social, 
poHtical, and economic problems such as colonial administration, 
mihtary government, and labour relations. 



A COMPLETE record of the persons who have made it possible for me to 
write this book would include the long list of those who have given me 
so much, beginning with my parents, George and Katherine Kluckhohn, 
and my sister Jane Kluckholm. I camiot mention them all, but I should 
like to set down certain obhgations that arc especially relevant. Evon 
Vogt, of Ramah, New Mexico, was responsible for my original interest 
in anthropology. Some of my undergraduate teachers at the University 
of Wisconsin had an especially deep influence upon my whole intellec- 
tual development: Walter Agard, Eugene Byrne, Norman Cameron, 
Harry Glicksman, Michael Rostovtseff, Bertha and Frank Sharp, Ruth 
Wallerstein. I owe a similar debt to teachers at Oxford (R. R. Marett, 
T. K. Penniman, Beatrice Blackwood), Vienna (W. Schmidt, W. 
Koppers, Edward Hitschman), and Harvard (Alfred Tozzer, Ernest 
Hooton, Lauriston Ward). Ralph Linton has taught me a great deal 
and provided me with professional opportunities. The members of the 
departments of Anthropology and Social Relations at Harvard have 
been instructors as well as colleagues. The number of professional 
friends to whom I am indebted is so large as to make any selection 
almost invidious. However, I am particularly conscious of profound 
obligation to the following (in addition to those already named above) : 
Henry A. Murray, John Dollard, Talcott Parsons, Edward Sapir, 
Alexander and Dorothea Leighton, Alfred Kroeber, W. W. Hill, Paul 
Reiter, Ruth Benedict, O. H. Mowrer, Donald Scott, J. O. Brew, 
L. C. Wyman, Gregory Bateson, Leslie White, Robert Redfield, Fred 
Eggan, Margaret Mead, and Lawrence Frank. To Jolin Collier, I aura 
Thompson, Alexander Leighton, and George Taylor I am grateful for 
opportunities to participate in the application of anthropological know- 
leclge to modern problems. Many students, graduate and under- 
graduate, have clarified my thinking and stimulated me to more nearly 
adequate presentation. My wife, Florence Kluckhohn, has given im- 
measurable help, both intellectual and personal. 

The Rhodes Scholarship Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 




Carnegie Corporation have enabled me to study with unusual advan- 
tages. I owe an especial debt to Charles Dollard, president of the 
Carnegie Corporation. This book was written under a fellowship 
provided by the Jolm Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 
1945-46. To the Foundation and to its secretary general, Henry Allen 
Moe, I am very grateful. 

The organizations and individuals who have supported my technical 
researches have also contributed importantly to this book for the lay- 
man: the Peabody Museum of Harvard University and its director. 
Professor Donald Scott; the Laboratory of Social Relations and its 
director. Professor Samuel Stouffer; the Viking Fund and its director 
of research. Dr Paul Fejos; the Milton Fund of Harvard University, 
and Provost Paul H. Buck; the American Philosophical Society; the 
Social Science Research Council; the Old Dominion Foundation. 

From the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., and Whittlesey House 
I received generous help and co-operation in the writing and prepara- 
tion of this book. To many members of the McGraw-Hill staff and 
most especially to Mrs Beulah Harris I express my warmest thanks. 
Mrs Harris’s contribution to this book is intellectually as well as 
stylistically a very meaningful one. 

The following friends and colleagues have given all or a portion of 
the text the benefit of their criticism: W. C. Boyd, J. O. Brew, 
Edward Bruner, James B. Conant, Jo Ann and Paul Davis, Clarissa 
Fuller, W. W. Hill, Ernest Hooton, Stuart Hughes, Jane Kluckhohn, 
Florence Kluckhohn, Alfred and Theodora Kroeber, Alexander and 
Dorothea Leighton, Paul Reiter, James Sphuler, Evon and Naneen 
Vogt, Lauriston Ward. Naturally, none of these must be blamed for 
errors in fact or judgment, for I have often stuck stubbornly to my 
original statement. To Mrs Ernst Blumenthal and Mrs Bert Kaplan 
I am indebted for their enormous help and care in typing the various 
drafts of the manuscript. 

W. H. Kelly, Dorothea Leighton, Florence Kluckhohn, and O. H. 
Mowrer have generously allowed me to revise and use published and 
unpublished materials that we had written jointly. Columbia Univer- 
sity Press has consented to the republication of certain passages by 
Dr Kelly and me, from the paper “The Concept of Culture,” in The 
Science of Man in the World Crisis y edited by Ralph Linton (1945). 
The Harvard University Press has permitted me to use some para- 
graphs that Dr Leighton and I wrote for The Navaho (i94<^)- These 
appear mainly in Chapter VI of the present book. The Harvard Press 


has likewise given me permission to revise and include some parts 
from my chapter in Religion and our Racial Tensions (1945). The 
Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion has allowed the use 
of portions of an essay by my wife and myself that appeared in Conflicts 
of Poioer in Modern Culture (1947) and parts of an earlier essay by me 
which they published in Approaches to World Peace (1944). Professor 
John Crowe Ransom, editor of the Kenyon Review, has permitted me 
to draw from my article “The Way of Life” which appeared in the 
Review in 1941. All of the sentences and paragraphs taken from 
earlier writings have been substantially rearranged or rewritten for this 

This book is dedicated to two men to whom I owe very much. 
R. J. Koehler, business associate of my grandfather, Charles Kluckhohn, 
was one of the most significant influences of my formative years and 
has been a lifelong friend. H. G. Rockwood, my father-in-law, has 
for the past sixteen years aided and inspired me in many ways. The 
character and sense of personal and social responsibility of these two 
men have much that is similar. Their hves testify more dramatically 
than any words to the best in the distinctive American virtues which I 
have attempted to sketch in Chapter IX of this book. 

The following pubUshers and editors of periodicals have granted me 
permission to quote from the articles and books noted P 

George Allen and Unwin, Ltd: Franz Boas’s Anthropology and Modern 
Lifi (1928). 

The Philosophical Review: Grace de Laguna’s “Cultural Relativism and 
Science” (March 1942). 

F. S. Crofts and Co.: Edward Sapir’s chapter in The Unconscious, a 
Symposium (1928). 

The Scientific Monthly and the Rutgers University Press: Lawrence 
Frank’s “Science and Culture,” which appeared in the Scientific 
Monthly in June 1940, and is reprinted in Society as the Patient (1948). 
Duell, Sloan and Pearce, Inc.: Wallace Stegner’s Mormon Country 

C. A. Watts and Co., Ltd: V. G. Childe’s Man makes Himself (1936) 
The American Philosophical Society: A. V. Kidder’s “Looking Back- 
ward” {Proceedings, American Philosophical Society, vol. 83, 1940). 

1 Listed in the order in which they appear in this book. 



The Scientific Monthly: A. L. Kroeber’s “Structure, Function, and Pat- 
tern in Biology and Anthropology” (February 1943). 

Penguin Books, Ltd: V. G. Childe’s What happened in History 


Psychiatry: Ruth Benedict’s “Continuities and Discontinuities in Cul- 
tural Conditioning” (vol. i, January 1938). 

The Ronald Press Company: the poem from W. J. Humphreys’ 
Ways of the Weather (1942). 

Charles Scribner’s Sons, Ltd: R. B. Dixon’s The Building of Cultures 

The Scientific Monthly: T. Dobzhansky’s “The Race Concept in 
Biology” (vol. lii, February 1941). 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, and 
George Allen and Unwin, Ltd: E. A. Hooton’s “Anthropology and 
Medicine,” which appeared in Science (1935) and was reprinted in 
Apes, Men, and Morons (1937). 

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research: Morris Opler’s “Fact and 
Fallacy concerning the Evolution of Man” (June 1947). 

The American Journal of Orthodontics: E. A. Hooton’s “The Evolution 
and Devolution of the Human Face” (vol. 32, 1946). 

Victor Gollancz, Ltd: The Heathens, by Wilham Howells (1948). 

The British Association for the Advancement of Science and the 
Smithsonian Institution: Karl Pearson’s “The Science of Man: its 
Needs and Prospects” (Smithsonian Report, 1921). 

The Columbia University Press and the Oxford University Press: 
W. M. Krogman’s “The Concept of Race,” from The Science of 
Man in the World Crisis, edited by Ralph Linton (1945). 

The Royal Anthropological Institute: J. B. S. Haldane’s “Anthro- 
pology and Human Biology,” from Proceedings of the International 
Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (1934). 

Science Education: S. L. Washburn’s “Thinking about Race” (vol. 28, 


The Teaching Scientist: Franz Boas’s “Genetic and Environmental Fac- 
tors in Anthropology,” which appeared in The Teaching Biologist 
(November 1939). 

Human Biology: Gunnar Dahlberg’s “An Analysis of the Conception 
of Race and a New Method of Distinguishing Race” (1942). 

The Ronald Press Company: S. Rosenzweig’s “Outline of Frustra- 
tion Theory,” which appeared in Personality and the Behavior Dis^ 
orders, J. McV. Hunt, editor (1944). 



Asia and the Americas: Harry Shapiro’s “Certain Aspects of Race,” 
which appeared in Asia (June 1944). 

The University of California Press : A. B. Johnson’s Treatise on Language, 
edited by David Rynin (i947)* 

Linguistic Society of America: Edward Sapir’s “The Status of Lin- 
guistics as a Science,” published in Language (1929). 

George Allen and Unwin, Ltd: Leonard Bloomfield’s Language 


Oxford University Press: S. de Madariaga’s Englishmen, Frenchmen, 
and Spaniards (1929). 

Yale University Press and the Oxford University Press: Carl Becker’s 
Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers (1935). 

Child Study: Margaret Mead’s “When Were You Bom?” (Spring, 

Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences: Margaret Mead’s 
“The Application of Anthropological Techniques to Cross-national 
Communication” (February 1947). 

The Macmillan Company: Edward Sapir’s “Language” in the Encyclo- 
pedia of the Social Sciences (vol. ix, 1933). 

The Columbia University Press and the Oxford University Press: 
Felix Keesing’s “Applied Anthropology in Colonial Administra- 
tion,” in The Science of Man in the World Crisis, edited by Ralph 
Linton (1945). 

The United States Department of Agriculture: R. Redficld and W. 
Warner’s “Cultural Anthropology and Modern Agriculture,” 
which appeared in the 1940 Yearbook oj Agriculture. 

The Southwestern Journal of Anthropology: F. Hulse’s “Technological 
Development and Personal Incentive in Japan” (1947). 

The Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Rehgion: Lyman 
Bryson’s “What is a Good Society?” which appeared in Science, 
Philosophy, and Religion, a Symposium (1943). 

The Journal of Applied Anthropology: Eliot Chappie’s “Anthropological 
Engineering” (January 1943). 

The American Anthropologist: John Embree’s “AppHed Anthropology 
and its Relation to Anthropology” (1945). 

The University of Cahfornia Press : George Pettitt’s Primitive Education 
in North America (1946). 

The Journal of the National Association of Deans of Women: Margaret 
Mead’s “Administrative Contributions to Democratic Character 
Formation at the Adolescent Level” (January 1941). 


William Morrow and Co., Inc.: Margaret Mead’s From the South Seas 

Professor Leslie Spier (chairman of the editorial committee for 
Language, Culture, and Personality): Cora Du Bois’s “Attitudes 
toward Food and Hunger in Alor” (1941). 

The Conference on Science, Philosophy, and ReUgion: Gregory 
Bateson’s “Comment” on Margaret Mead’s paper in Science, 
Philosophy, and Religion, a Symposium (1942). 

The American Journal of Sociology: Edward Sapir’s “Culture, Genuine 
and Spurious” (1924) and C. J. Friedrich’s “The New Doctrine of 
the Common Man” (1944). 

The Macmillan Company: E. H. Carr’s The Soviet Impact on the 
Western World (1947). 

The Saturday Review of Literature: William Scroggs’s “What’s the 
Matter with Economics?” (November ii, 1939). 

The New York Academy of Sciences: Ruth Benedict’s “The Study 
of Cultural Patterns in European Nations” (June 1946). 

United Nations World and the Rutgers University Press: Lawrence 
Frank’s “World Order and Cultural Diversity,” which appeared in 
Free World (June 1942) and has been reprinted in Society as the 
Patient (1948). 

The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues: Lippit and 
Hendry’s contribution to Human Nature and Enduring Peace (1945). 

Dr Mortimer Graves : an unpublished memorandum. 

The Institute for Psychoanalysis (Chicago) : Edwin Embree’s pamphlet 
“Living Together” (1941). 

Living authors whose addresses were accessible have also been asked 

for permission, which has been graciously granted by each writer 

reached. I am very grateful to them also. 



Adams, Henry, 58 

Adams, James Truslow, The Epic of 
America, 236 

Administration, anthropologists in, 
171-173, 175, 179 

Aggression, potential and actual, 

Agriculture, 159, i(58-i69, 172 

Alcoholism, 158 

American culture — see Culture, 

Anthropological method, 19-20, 165- 
167; and primitive society, 22; 
with regard to language, 138; and 
cultural point of view, 167; and 
rural problems, 168; technical 
aspect of, 1 70-1 71; and industrial 
anthropology, 176 

Anthropology, applied, 156-180; 
military use of, 56, 78-79; civiHan 
use of, 79-80; and environment, 
82-83; somatology, 91; language, 
1 39-140; hmitations of, 239-240; 
general use of, 249-250; defmition 
of, 273 

Anthropology, biological, 74, 78-135* 
See also Anthrolopogy, physical 

Anthropology, constitutional, 87-91, 


Anthropology, historical, 14, 49-77 

Anthropology, industrial, 176-180 

Anthropology, physical, 16-17, 78- 
135; results based on statistics from 
numerous cases, 268; a type of 
human biology, 271; defmition of 
branches of, 272-273; mentioned, 

Anthropology, psychological, 181- 
208; culture patterns altered, 68; 
ambition, 168; class problems, 
232-233; pohtics and nationalism, 
248-249 ; aggression and war, 252- 
253; mentioned, 61, 255, 273 
Anthropology, social, and determin- 
ation of events, 66 ; practical use of, 
168-169; mentioned, 16, 78, 267 
Anthropometry, defmition of, 272 
Anti-semitism, 129, 130, 13 1 
Apes, 91-93 
Arabic, 139 

Archaeology, 49-77; dating, 52-53; 
and the future, 209; metliod of, 
267; and geology, 270-271 ; defini- 
tion of, 273 ; mentioned, 14, 16, 267 
AristoteUan logic, 148, 149 
Arts and crafts, 72 
‘Aryan,* 104 
Asceticism, 196-197 
Ashley-Montagu, M. F., 115 
Authors, and the mainsprings of 
human action, 271 

Babylonia, 63 
Balinese, 145-146, 208 
Basques, 49 
Bastian, Adolf, 14 
Bateson, Gregory, quoted, 208 
Becker, Carl, quoted, 143, 217 
Benedict, Ruth, quoted, 33, 69, 242- 

Bengalis, 119 

Biology, science of man and, 1 1 ; and 
culture, 27-29, 31, 32, 4 < 5 - 47 ; and 
special influences on man, 68 ; 




and the building of cultures, 73 ; and 
crime, 88-89; and heredity, 104; 
species cohesion, 125 ; characteristics 
and culture in relation to, 187-188; 
instruction limited by biological 
factors, 1 90-191; individuals bio- 
logically different, 245 
Blood-groups, 112-113, 117-118 
Bloomfield, Leonard, quoted, 139 
Boas, Franz, quoted and referred to, 
82, 84, 103, 1 12, 1 14, 122, 235 
Bryson, Lyman, quoted, 175, 261 
Bushmen, 71, 74, 97, 100 

Carlson, A. J., quoted, 238 
Carr, E. H., quoted, 235 
Caste groups, discrimination between, 

Charlemagne, Emperor, no 
Chicago University, Department of 
Andiropology, 134 
Childe, V. G., quoted and referred to, 
55, 62, 66 

Chimpanzees, behaviour of, 92-93 
China: scholars of Han dynasty, 12; 
customs of, 25; and Communism, 
65; child mortality in, 86, 117; 
early history, isolation effect on 
ancestors of Chinese, 94-95 ; culture 
of, 1 19; miscegenation in, 121; 
language, importance of, 139; 
pecuharities of language, 149; dis- 
organization of, 174; mentioned, 
60, 119, 121, 167, 183, 266 
Christianity, 32, 36-37, 61-62 
Chromosomes, 81, 95 
Clarke, Grahame, quoted, 53 
Climate, 73, 83-84 
Collier, John, 159 
Common sense, 154, 163-164 
Communism — see Marxism 
Comte, Auguste, 14-15 
Criminals, biologically inferior, 
theory disputed, 88; constitutional 

predisposition makes, 89; Negro 
Americans become, as result of 
frustration, 132-133; 'fair trial’ of, 
167-168 ; guilt complexes, 197-199 
Cro-Magnon man, 49, 83 
Cross-Cultural Survey, Yale Univer- 
sity, 28 

Culture, 25-48, 181-208; social ills 
and treatment, 17; premises of, 
33, 36, 38, 43, 167, 239, 247-248, 
251; growth of, 34-35, 49-77; 
implicit, 39, 42; relativity in, 46; 
and language, 148 

Culture, American, 209-238; pro- 
blem of, 33-34; customs of, 39; 
sex in relation to, 39; integration 
and structure of, 40-41; conflicts 
and prejudices of, 128-129, 130; 
economic conditions affecting, 129; 
minorities in, 132; language pre- 
judices in, 136; phrases, 143; con- 
notation of words in, 146-147; 
hmitations of language, 1 52-1 54; 
differences in behaviour between 
foreign and, 165; mental distur- 
ances, 185-186; adult and child’s 
reaction to, 193-194; competition 
in, 206-207; in relation to world 
culture, 245; material side of, 257- 

Dahlberg, Gunnar, quoted, 123 
Darwin, Charles, creation of theory, 
30; Origin of Species j 63, 262; 
evolution, theory of, 95-96; Karl 
Pearson on, 109; biology theory of, 
127; mentioned, loi, no 
Dewey, John, quoted and referred to, 
223, 237 

Dickinson, G. Lowes, quoted, 220 
Diffusion, 49-77, 60-61, 62 
Discovery and invention, 3 4-3 5 , 49-77 
Dixon, R. B., quoted and referred to, 
58, 62, 75-76 


Dobzhansky, Theodosius, quoted, 8i, 

Du Bois, Cora, quoted, 206 
Ductless (endocrine) glands, 95 
Durkheim, Emile, quoted and referred 
to, 230, 270 

Economics, science of man and, ii; 
and movements, 64; Russia and 
China, 64-65; and race prejudice, 
129; sphere of activities, 264, 265; 
mentioned, 15, 258 
Ecuador, Indians of, 161 
Education, different methods in dif- 
ferent societies, 157; as a creative 
force, 157; progressive movement 
in, 184; technical and regulatory 
type of, 189-190; a prolonged 
process, 192; based on watery intel- 
lectualism, 225-226; mentioned, 


Egyptians, Herodotus describes, 12; 
Book of Proverbs, excerpts bor- 
rowed from, 50; pyramids of, 59; 
achievements of, 63 ; political union 
of, 72; ‘hybrid vigour,’ 12 1 
Einstein, Professor Albert, quoted and 
referred to, 57, 145, 222, 260 
Embree, Edwin, quoted, 261-262 
Embree, John, quoted, 179-180 
Eritrea, soldier’s handbook on, 160- 

Eskimos, 72, 96 
Ethnology, 16, 49, 273 

Fenichel, Otto, 196 
Fiji, 175 
Fire piston, 59 
Fisher, R. A., 113 
Food-producing economy, 62 
Fossil men, gibbons ancestral to, 49; 
origin of, 74-75; stature of, 83; 
geographical varieties of same 
species, 98 


France, forms of greeting in, 140; 
common words used by other 
languages, 142 

Frank, Lawrence, quoted, 47-48, 
244-245, 252 

Frazer, Sir James, The Golden Bough, 11 
Freud, Sigmund, quoted and referred 
to, 57, 197-198 

Friedrich, Carl, quoted, 235-236 
Fries, Margaret, quoted, 200 
Fromm, Eric, quoted, 216, 234 
Frontier, influence of, on American 
character, 223-225 

Function, cultural practice and, 34; 
history versus, 66 

Genes, definition of, 81; their pro-? 
ducts, 81 ; temperamental and intel- 
lectual traits determined by, 104; 
cliild gets random assortment of, 
from parents, no; mainly trans- 
mitted independently, 113; men- 
tioned, III, 1 15, 124 
Geographer, contrast with the anthro- 
pologist, 269; human geographer, 
similarity with anthropologist, 271 
Germany, forms of greeting in, 140, 
142; common words used by other 
languages, 142 

Ghost Dance, cult of, among Sioux 
Indians, 66-67 
Gladwin, Thomas, 83 
Golden Stool, incident of, 159 
Goldschmidt, Walter, - 4 s You sow, 

Granet, Marcel, 266 
Graves, Mortimer, quoted, 258 
Greece, alphabet taken from Phoeni- 
cians by, 61; conception of time 
in classical age, 1 51-152; culture 
of, in classical age, 66; Hellenistic 
period in, 60 ; homosexuality in, 32 ; 
slowness of political unification, 72 ; 
mentioned, 121 



Haldane, J. B. S., quoted on race, 

Hamadryas baboons, 92 
Hammurabi, king of Babylonia, 12, 


Harvard report on general education, 


Havighurst, Robert, Who shall be 
educated?, 209 

Hawaii, stature of Japanese boys 
bom in, 82 ; Japanese men who came 
to, differed, 83; Japanese living 
in, prone to manic-depressive dis- 
orders, 186 

Henderson, L. J., quoted, 22 
Herodotus, ‘father of antliropology,' 

Historical linguistics, 49 
History, accidents of, 68, 119 
Hogben, Lancelot, quoted, 50 
Holmes, W. H., quoted, 53 
Homo sapiens, 75 

Hooton, E. A., quoted and referred to, 
79, 84-85, 88-89, 95, 108 
Horse, domestication of, 52 
Horton, Donald, 158 
Howells, W. W., quoted, 97 
Hulse, Frederick, quoted, 174 
Human evolution, 49, 91-97; both 
resembles and differs from cultural, 
62-63 ; biological anthropoloy has 
traced course of, 74-76; definition 
of, 272 

Humanities, the, 270-271 
Humphreys, W. J., quoted, 73 
Huntington, Ellsworth, quoted and 
referred to, 74, 84, 97, 105 
Huxley, Aldous, quoted and referred 
to, 143, 237 
‘Hybrid vigour,* I3i 

Ideals, 38, 258-259 
Ideology, 17, 21 1 
Inca tapestries, 30 


Boorabbec, language pecuHarities 
of, 139 
Crow, 189 

Haida, language of, 149 
Hopi, use of coal, 53, 59; language 
pecuHarities, 149, 152-15 3 
Natchez, 61 
Kwakiutl, 189 
Maya, pyramids of, 51, 59 
Navaho, children, activity of aver- 
age, 29; ‘fear of closure,* 39; 
origin of certain words, 57; form 
of greeting, 143 ; peculiarities of 
language, 1 50-151; pattern of 
adult hfe connected with child’s 
experience, 185; mentioned, 32^70 
Plains, 58 
Plateau, 61-62 
Pueblo, 58, 70 

Sioux, Ghost Dance cult, 66-67 
Wintu, language of, 149 
Yurok, 189 
Zuni, 29, 199-200 
IntelHgence tests, 120 
Italy, forms of greeting in, 140; com- 
mon words used by other languages, 

Japanese, Banzai charge, 25, 163; 
boys bom in Hawaii, stature of 
greater, 82; men who came to 
Hawaii differed, 83 ; hereditary 
diseases, 96; family traits perpetu- 
ated, 102; greeting, 143 ; morale of, 
161, 163, 164-165; post-war propa- 
ganda and imperial institution of 
die, 162-163 ; apathy of labouring 
class, 174; living in Hawaii prone 
to manic-depressive disorders, 186; 
and democracy, 212; mentioned, 
117, 144, 184-185, 215 
Japanese- Americans, 29, 134, 156, 
171-172, 219 


Jews, 100, 105, 126, 127 
Johnson, A. B., quoted, 136 
Journalism in anthropology, 272 

K^esing, Felix, quoted, 158 
Kidder, A. V., quoted, 64 
‘Kith,’ group of people with common 
language and culture, 97 
Koryaks, polygamy of, 26 
Korzybski, Alfred, 148 
Kroeber, A. L., Configurations of 
Culture Growth, 63, 65 
Krogman, W. M., quoted and referred 
to, 80, 1 12 

Laguna, Grace de, quoted, 23-24 
L^guage, 136-155 
Learning, ability, 187; conflict be- 
tween teaching and, 189; cultural, 
189-190; reward essential to, 202- 

Linton, Ralph, quoted and referred 
to, 37, 62, 71-72 

Lippit, Ronald, quoted, 130, 246-247 
Lippman, Walter, quoted, 240 
Locke, John, quoted, 144 
Lynd, Robert, quoted and referred 
to, 18, 215, 216 

Madariaga, S. de, Englishmen, French- 
men, and Spaniards, 142-143 
Magyars, 141 

Malayans, ‘run amok,’ 185 
Malinowski, Bronislaw, monographs 
on the Trobrianders, 271 
Maratlias, 119 

Martyr, Peter, travelogues of, 13 
Marxism, method of testing theories 
of, 55 ; Critique of Political Economy, 
63; Russia under sway of, 64-65; 
assumes primary motivations are 
economic, 181 ; and individuals sur- 
render to state, 246 ; mentioned, 65, 


Mead, Margaret, quoted and referred 
to, 146, 147, 153, 195, 203-204, 214, 

Medicine, science of man and, ii; 
influence of anthropology on, 85- 
86; immunities and susceptibihties 
of various populations, 86-87 ; con- 
stitutional anthropology closely re- 
lated to problems of, 87-88; cul- 
tural anthropology and, 157-158; 
mental diseases, 183, 185-186; 

psychology and psycliiatry, 267; 
mentioned, 204 
Melanesia, 30, 44, 149 
Mendel, Gregor, 59-60, 78, loi, 123- 

Mesopotamia, 63, 121 
Meyer, Edward, 267 
Middle America, 54, 59 
Mihtary government, 156, 1 72-1 73 
Mills, C. A., 83 

Mohammedanism, 36, 59, 125 
Moral absolutes, 46 
Morgan, Lewis, 14 
Morris, Charles, Paths of Life, 257 
Miiller, Max, quoted, 104 
Mutations, 95 

Nahuatl Language, 136 
Neanderthal man, 49, 74, 75 
Negroes, immunities and susceptibi- 
lities of, 86-87; arrival of, in mod- 
ern Europe, 100; child mortaHty of, 
1 1 7 ; intelligence of, 1 20 ; miscegena- 
tion of, and false theories, 121-122; 
attempt to prove scientific inferi- 
ority to whites, 127; ‘race’ pro- 
blems, 131; frequency of crime 
among, 1 3 2-1 3 3 ; blood-pressure 
trouble, 186. See also Negroes, 

Negroes, African, reUgion of, 39; 
evolutionary variations of, 96, 
97; blood-group frequencies of, 



112-113; miscegenation of, 115- 
1 16; culture of, 119; attitude to- 
wards, 125; blood-pressure of, 186 
New Mexico, 139 
New Stone Age, 58 
Niebuhr, Reinhold, The Nature and 
Destiny of Man^ 42 ; quoted, 241 
‘Nordic,' 112, 114, 115 
Northrop, F. C. S., quoted and 
referred to, 248, 260 
Nutrition, 71-72, 169-170 

Old Stone Age, 49, 58 
Opler, Morris, quoted, 96 
Ortega y Gasset, Jose, quoted, 50 

Papua, 159 

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and 
Ethnology (Harvard), 15 
Pearson, Karl, quoted and referred to, 
78, 109, 1 13 

Perry, Ralph Barton, 258-259 
Personality, 1 8 1-208 ; development of, 
84, 102-103; traits influenced by 
physical disproportions, 88; indi- 
viduals must be encouraged to 
develop, 245-246; dangerous to 
repress, 252-253 ; must be free, 256 
Peru, 54 

Pettit, George, quoted, 184 
Philosophy, 14, 236, 269-270 
Physical environment, and influence 
on food, appetite, etc., 28-29; and 
relation to other branches of 
anthropology, 46-47; importance 
of, 53-54 ; changes in, act as stimulus 
to culture, 67-68; tends towards 
consistency, 69; different reactions 
in different populations to the 
same, 69-71 ; limitations and possi^- 
bilities of, 72-73; full meaning of 
‘environment,* 82; mentioned, 94, 
1 19, 123 

Piltdown Man, 75 

Pitcairn Islanders, 121 
Pleistocene period, 74, 75 
Political Science, 15, 264, 265 
Polynesia, 32, 49, 56, 74 
Population, increase of, 67; density of, 
70, 73, 82 

Prediction, 51-52, 182 
Primitives (non-literates), 20-21, 22- 
24; 265-266 
Progress, 54, 65-66 
Psychiatry, theory of the unconscious, 
31; and mental diseases, 90-91; 
emphasizes importance of enjoy- 
ment, 195; and psychotherapy, 
212; and interest in mental illnesses 
of non-Europeans, 267-268 ; men- 
tioned, 86, 265, 268 „ 

Psycho-analysis, 185, 197-198, 199, 

Psychology, science of man and, 1 1 ; 
and warfare, 162-165; sphere of 
activity, 264, 265-266; and anthro- 
pology, 268; mentioned, 15, 237, 

Puritans, 97 

Race, 98-135; mixture of, 103, 120- 
122; equality, 230-231; mentioned, 

Radin, Paul, Primitive Man as a 
Philosopher y 36 

Redficld, Robert, quoted, 126 
Religion, 61, 66-67, 99-IOI, 256-257. 

See also Ritual 
Rhodesian man, 75 
Ritual, 32, 33-34. See also ReUgion 
Rodrick, David, Post-war Germans, 

Rosenzweig, Saul, quoted, 13 1 
Rosten, Leo, 112 Gripes about the 
French, 165 

Russia, semantic problem, 144, 153- 
154; national character, 183 ; impact 
of, on Western world, 235; Con- 



flirting ideologies of, and Western 
democracies, 248; mentioned, 125, 
i 55 » 219 

Samoa, 173 

Sapir, Edward, quoted, 42, 137, 155, 

Scapegoats, 128 
Scroggs, William, quoted, 240 
Scydiians, 12, 52 
Seltzer, Carl, 88 
Semantics, 137, I43-I44 
Shapiro, Harry, quoted and referred 
to, 82, 112, 135 

Shaw, G. Bernard, quoted, 174 
Sheldon, W. H., 89-90 
Sif^nthropuSj 75 
Sirjamaki, John, quoted, 233 
Social sciences, relation between, 
46-47, 264-273; development of, 
262; contrasted with ‘natural 
sciences,' 270; mentioned, ii 
Socialization, definition of, in any 
culture, 182; instruments of, 193; 
adjustment to, 194-195, 201; out- 
side the family, 201; insecurity, 
suspicion, and aggression, 205-207; 
as a key to world's problems, 

‘Society' and ‘culture,' 31 
Sociology, science of man and, ii; 
Auguste Comte, founder of, 14- 
15; sphere of activity, 264-265; 
compared with anthropology, 269- 
270; mentioned, 20 
Soil conservation, problems of, 168 
Somatotypes, 89-91 
Sorokin, Pitirim, 237 
State Department, U.S.A., 158, 177 
Stegner, Wallace, quoted, 51 
Stereotypes, 129, 133, 164, 249 
Steward, Juhan, 71 
Suicide, 158 

Sweden, language snobbery, 1 40-1 41 

Tacitus, 12 

Tannenbaum, Frank, quoted, 220 
Taos, New Mexico, 37 
Tasmania, 72 
Tax, Sol, quoted, 19 
Technology, discovery and utilization 
of, 170; anthropological use of, 
177-178 ; basis of capitalistic system, 
221-222; immaturity of, in relation 
to human problems, 228-229; un- 
critical worship of, 237; mentioned, 
72, 263 

Thomas, Norman, quoted, 230 
Tibet, 32, 96 

Tocqueville, Alexis de, quoted and 
referred to, 214, 216 
Tozzer, A. M., 102 
Tylor, Sir Edward Burnett, quoted 
and referred to, 14, 15, 50 

Universals in human life, 18-19, 53, 
124, 249-250 

Values, 259-260 
Veblen, Thors tein, 230 
Vico, Giovanni, quoted and referred 
to, 47 

War, archaeologists and etlinologists 
depict natural liistory of, 57; Freud 
and Einstein argue about inevit- 
ability of, 57; existence of various 
customs in different societies has 
tended to stimulate, 99; sources of, 
and reasons for, 206-207, 253-254; 
minimization and control of, in 
view of new knowledge, 252-253. 
See also Psychology 
Warner, W. Lloyd, 231-232; Who 
shall he educated?, 209 
Washburn, S. L., quoted, 115 
Weidenreich, Franz, 124 
White, Leslie, quoted and referred to, 
47, 262 



Whitehead, A. N., quoted and re- 
ferred to, 41, 115; Process and 
Reality, 257 

Yerkes, Robert, 92 

Yogis, 93-94 

Zbmi, 160 
Zulu, 30